Guest Editorial: Where’s our property tax relief for homeowners? | Editorial
Pennsylvania owners, get ready. This year’s school property tax bill is about to arrive in your mailbox. And, again, that most likely includes a further increase in your property tax, compliments of the failure of our GOP-led General Assembly to adequately fund our schools or take action to provide meaningful tax relief. land.
As if record inflation weren’t enough to drain our wallets and bank accounts, school districts in Pennsylvania have once again been forced to raise unfair property taxes because it’s the only option they have. have when faced with their own inflationary pressures and a whole host of unfunded and underfunded state mandates.
In my school district of East Pennsboro, because Republican legislative leaders told them not to count on increased education funding as proposed by Governor Tom Wolf, school principals passed a 2022 school budget. -23 which includes a 4.2% tax increase. — East Pennsboro Area School District’s ninth property tax increase in the past 10 years for a cumulative total property tax increase over the past decade of approximately $5 million. The situation is similar in other school districts in Cumberland County, the region and throughout Pennsylvania.
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According to my local school district’s 2022-2023 budget documents, the level of state financial support for our school district has dropped to a dismal 28%, with the rest of the funding to make ends meet coming from the pockets of local property taxpayers. . No wonder our state ranks in the bottom 10 states in America in terms of state funding support versus local funding for our schools.
To our state legislators, who are seeking to finalize a state budget for fiscal year 2022-23 while sitting on a record state reserve and a revenue surplus of approximately $12 billion, I would ask – on behalf of weary school property tax overburdened homeowners everywhere – where’s our homeowner property tax relief?
It has now been five years since Pennsylvania voters approved a Republican-sponsored constitutional amendment to expand the state property exemption to allow for the complete elimination of homeowner property taxes. The amendment allowed local taxing jurisdictions (school districts, counties, and municipalities) to exempt “up to 100% of the assessed value of each homestead” in the local taxing jurisdiction.
But, sadly, in another public display of trust-shattering inaction, it appears that this constitutional “will of the people” has either been simply forgotten or ignored. Our state legislators, to date, have not provided our school districts and other local tax agencies with the funding or funding mechanism to even begin to implement this constitutional change.
So here’s an original idea. Instead of any further political complacency in the election year with unrealistic proposals, which will never happen and will never happen, proposals to eliminate the $14 billion school property tax that are primarily aimed at giving large commercial and corporate properties to landlords exceptional tax relief, how about using some of the state’s burgeoning revenue surplus to relieve landlord inflation by beginning to implement the provisions of the constitutional change that voters approved in 2017?
For decades, unfair property taxes – which have no bearing on a homeowner’s ability to pay – have been blamed for driving people, especially our seniors on fixed incomes, out of their homes while making more difficult for young families to afford a house. It is high time to bring substantial relief. Using state money to reduce landlord school property taxes would also have the side benefit of increasing the abysmal share of state funding for our schools.
Additionally, as the details of the state budget are finalized, it is high time for the state to fund its fair share of unfunded and underfunded mandates like cyber charter schools. It is ridiculous that school districts in our state are required to pay the full cost of students attending non-district cyber charter schools when many other states fund the cyber charter school alternative. In my school district, this has become a $3 million drain on programs and services for students attending East Pennsboro schools.
Finally, I think it’s important to note that the apparent GOP movement underway to shift more and more funding to so-called “school choice” alternatives and away from our local public schools will ultimately have a disastrous effect. about the schools attended by the vast majority of our state’s children and about our state’s general public education system.
And, on this point, I would remind our state legislators of another unfulfilled constitutional obligation. Article 3, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution is clear: “The General Assembly shall” – not may – “provide for the maintenance and support of a complete and efficient system of public education” – not private – “to meet the needs of the population”. Commonwealth.”
Our state and federal constitutions contain many provisions, not just a few. And I would respectfully suggest that our state and federal legislators keep in mind that the oath they have taken is to uphold and uphold all of the provisions, not just some of them.
Jim Hertzler is a retired Cumberland County Commissioner who also served for 22 years as East Pennsboro Township Commissioner, as well as the East Pennsboro School Board.