The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 3, 2013

Farm Bureau opposes reassessment

GALLITZIN — Before the 46th annual Cambria County Farm Bureau meeting Thursday, Cambria County President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder remarked candidly about the strong turnout. Extra tables and chairs were produced as farmers and bureau members crammed into Taddei’s Restaurant in Gallitzin.

County-level resolutions up for debate included a recommendation to eliminate local tax collectors and opposition to Cambria County reassessment.

“I understand the thought behind reassessment,” said Marty Yahner, governmental relations director. “It’s a fairness issue.

“Property taxes are a huge concern of Farm Bureau members and farmers because most farmers are landowners,” he said.

Rates are fixed, regardless of a farm’s profitability or the farmer’s ability to pay. Yahner said reappropriating the rate percentages would only make the issue more lopsided.

“Farmers pay a disproportionate share of property taxes when it comes to the county and school district. It’s just a proven fact,” he said.

Farmer Ralph Sheehan of Loretto is inclined to agree, but said he thinks re-evaluating what is taxed is a much more viable solution.

“(‘It’s a fairness issue’) is a true statement. But I’m not sure reassessment is the solution to that,” Sheehan said.

“Kids come out of houses. Why should there be school taxes on silos, barns and sheds? If everybody was taxed on their houses, wouldn’t that be more of a fair way to do it?”

When taken for a vote, the resolution to oppose reassessment passed handily.

A resolution to dissolve Farm Bureau relations with tax collector firms, however, found little to no vote support. It was presented as a cost-saving measure at the county level. If passed, electronically calculated tax notices would be mailed from the courthouse.

One member said they were in favor of keeping the tax collectors, since the service provides local employment. Another said if the vote were left to township residents, they would likely choose to keep their tax collectors.

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Justin Dennis.

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