The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 14, 2012

Patience needed on property tax relief effort

The Tribune-Democrat

— Putting most of the burden for financing our local schools on the backs of property owners has never been fair.

Our government leaders and home owners have long agreed on this fact.

That is why so many Pennsylvanians greeted with enthusiasm legislation proposed in both the House and Senate.

That enthusiasm, unfortunately, was dampened somewhat recently by an Independent Fiscal Office report.

Created in 2010 to analyze fiscal, economic and budgetary issues, the IFO has found that bills to eliminate the local school property tax and replace it with increases in the state personal income and sales taxes would not generate enough revenue.

While that should send proponents back to the drawing board, it’s no reason to abandon a good idea.

The IFO analysis looked at a tax-swapping proposal in House Bill 1776 and Senate Bill 1400, parallel bills pending in the Legislature.

The legislation, according to PA Independent, would increase personal income taxes to 4.07 percent from 3.07 percent, sales tax to 7 percent from 6 percent, and increase the tax base to an expanded list of goods and services, such as clothing purchases of more than $50.

The legislation, the IFO concluded in an 88-page report, would leave Pennsylvania school districts $1.5 billion short in 2013-14, and $2 billion short by 2017-18.

What happens now is that the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform will meet and go over the report.  

The committee, created earlier this year, is charged with examining school and municipal property taxes in the hopes of coming up with a new system.

It is scheduled to deliver a report recommending potential reform ideas by Nov. 30.

We’ll be eager to hear that review.

We see IFO’s study as well as the upcoming report by the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform as a good start in what everyone knew would be a huge challenge and a time-consuming process.

It has never been fair to expect senior citizens and others with no children to pay large sums of money to support their school systems simply because they are property owners, while couples with three and four schoolchildren pay a much smaller share because they are not property owners.


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