Senator Mario Scavello E-Newsletter

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Week of March 4, 2019

Monroe County Reassessment Information & Clarification

This week, property owners throughout Monroe County received in the mail their new property assessment valuations as part of the county-wide reassessment. This is a process that was embarked upon by the county in order to restore equity to county-wide property values, since a reassessment has not been completed in almost 30 years.

Many have reached out to my office with very valid concerns about the valuations they received on their properties and I want to highlight several points of clarification for you as this process moves forward.

PLEASE NOTE: No state office or official has influence over the reassessment process. The county contracted with Tyler Technologies to perform the reassessment and specific procedures have been set for verifying or challenging your new property assessment.

  1. The County is moving from a 25% assessment value to a valuation based on 100% of the “market value” of your home. This does NOT mean that your taxes will increase fourfold. Rather, this simply means that millage will be calculated and assessed based on the full value of your home, not the old 25% rate. EXAMPLE: A home with a market value of $100,000 in 1989 had an assessed value of $25,000. Under the reassessment, a home with a market value of $100,000 will have an assessed value of $100,000.
  2. It is CRITICAL that you review the assessment information you received for accuracy. The proposed market value assigned to your property is NOT your new tax – it is simply a valuation of your property. Many residents have reported that they received information that reflects inaccurate details about their properties. If you would like to challenge or correct information about your new assessment value, you can schedule an informal review with Tyler Technologies at 570-517-3895 until April 1st.
  3. If you are still dissatisfied with your property valuation, you can file a formal appeal with the Monroe County Assessment Office beginning July 1st through August 9th. Formal appeals will be heard by the County Assessment Appeals Board.
  4. The actual tax you owe will not be known until the millage rates are adjusted accordingly after the assessed values are finalized. Under the 1989 assessment, property owners have a lower 25% assessment value with a higher millage rate. Under the new reassessment, property owners will have a higher 100% assessment value and the millage will be adjusted downward. A reassessment does not mean that you will automatically pay more taxes. Reassessments are revenue neutral meaning, as values are adjusted, some will go up, some will go down and others will remain the same. The county/school district/municipality cannot use the reassessment to increase taxes.
  5. Your taxes are determined by multiplying your Assessed Value by your Millage Rate. No property owner will know what their taxes will be until the new millage rates are determined. Currently, the priority is to ensure that your new assessed value reflects the market value of your home.
  6. The new assessment values and millage rates will not take effect until the 2020 tax cycle.

To check your new property assessment value and to view the data and comparable properties that were used to arrive at your valuation, please click the following link and select “Property Search”:

www.monroecountypa.gov/reassessment

To read a recent informational newspaper article on the reassessment, please click the following: https://www.poconorecord.com/news/20190224/reassessment-impact

For an informational PowerPoint regarding the reassessment process, please click the following: http://www.monroecountypa.gov/Dept/Assessment/Reassessment/Documents/PowerPointMonroePCM%2002.01.19.pdf

For Frequently Asked Questions on the reassessment, please click the following: http://www.monroecountypa.gov/Dept/Assessment/Reassessment/Pages/ReassessmentFAQs.aspx

The Senate Appropriations Committee held three weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2019-20 state budget. Below is a summary of the third week, including key topics discussed, my questions for testifiers, and video of each hearing. Week 1 Recap Week 2 Recap

This Week’s Budget Hearings:

  • Department of Drug & Alcohol
  • Life Sciences
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Aging
  • Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Ben Franklin Technology Partners
  • PA Gaming Control Board
  • Department of Community and Economic
  • Budget Secretary

Monday

Department of Drug & Alcohol

3/4/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Drug & Alcohol Programs

The length of methadone treatment, the use of alternative treatment drugs, the role of Centers for Excellence, & dept. funding were among the topics I discussed with Department of Drugs and Alcohol Secretary Jen Smith.

Members of the committee questioned Department of Drug and Alcohol Secretary Jen Smith to explain about the following topics:

  • Steps the department takes to monitor prescription drug abuse and coordinate with other agencies.
  • The demographic breakdown and types of substance abuse.
  • The effectiveness of methadone clinics across PA.
  • The process of identifying possible alternatives to methadone treatment.
  • The length of methadone treatment and the role of Centers for Excellence in treatment.
  • Department funding requests and federal funding.
  • The lack of accountability with the department’s unprecedented acceptance of a $10 million grant from the Bloomberg Family Foundation.
  • Social stigma and the influence of brain chemistry on addiction, and how both affect drug treatment in PA.
  • Steps to weed out unscrupulous recovery home operators prior to implementation of legislation to establish regulations.
  • Repeat use of naloxone on certain overdose victims.
  • Details on the department’s spending plan and projected outcomes
  • The need for an assessment of non-medical treatment necessities across PA.

Full Hearing

Life Sciences

3/4/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Life Sciences Greenhouses / Life Sciences PA

At the budget hearing on Life Sciences, I asked representatives about the high cost of prescription drugs and what can be done to make them more affordable for Pennsylvanians.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Life Science Greenhouse Initiative, which is funded by the annual Master Settlement Agreement

payment for the Tobacco Settlement. Three regional biotechnology research centers play a critical role in linking research and development with investment to create jobs and fuel innovation and technology. Senators asked representatives from those centers about:

  • The high cost of prescription drugs and what can be done to make them more affordable for Pennsylvanians.
  • Concerns that some areas of the state do not have Life Sciences greenhouse, which would help to bring jobs, venture capital and economic development.
  • How many jobs are created by the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in research and development, and the pay scale for those jobs.
  • Whether Pennsylvania’s decision to borrow against the tobacco settlement fund several years ago had an impact on revenues generated by the Life Sciences industry.
  • How Pennsylvanian’s Life Sciences greenhouses determine what companies and technologies to invest in and how successful that process is.
  • The high cost of developing pharmaceuticals, what can be done to control that pricing, and how rigorous our standards are.
  • Why many innovative trials on devices are funded in the United States but then take place first in Europe.
  • The return on investment for Life Sciences spending.

Full Hearing

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

3/4/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: DCNR

I stressed the significant economic impact of state parks and forests, and the fiscal impact they have on communities throughout Pennsylvania.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee asked Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resource Cindy Dunn for more information about Governor Wolf’s plan to raise for $4.5 billion in spending over four years for infrastructure improvements through a bond that would be repaid through the imposition of a Marcellus Shale extraction tax. They also posed questions about:

  • The large amount of leased land in Pennsylvania and the revenue it could generate for the Commonwealth.
  • Complicated fund transfers within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and flat timber sales.
  • Efforts to stem the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly.
  • The economic impact of state parks and forests, and the trickle down impact they have on communities throughout PA.
  • The status of sand replenishment efforts at Presque Isle Bay and other efforts to improve this important recreational resource.
  • Fund transfers from the Keystone Recreation and Environmental Stewardship Fund.
  • Funding for the Statewide Radio System.

Full Hearing

Tuesday

Department of Education

3/5/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Education, Part 1

I raised concerns about the costs associated with cyber charter schools, funding for technical and vocational education, and student transportation costs with Secretary Pedro Rivera.

3/5/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Education, Part 2

During the extended hearing with Secretary Pedro Rivera, I discussed concerns about early childhood education and community college funding.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed a wide variety of topics that affect students and taxpayers during a hearing with the Department of Education. Topics of discussion with Secretary Pedro Rivera included:

  • Efforts to recruit and retain high-quality educators.
  • The impact of Governor Wolf’s plan to raise the minimum teacher salary.
  • Concerns about the costs associated with cyber charter schools.
  • Funding needs for technical and vocational education.
  • Transportation costs for students.
  • Telepresence education for students who face an extended absence from school.
  • Further steps to strengthen school safety.
  • Steps taken to address the backlog of school construction cost reimbursements.
  • Restrictions on school safety grants.
  • The benefits of allowing school districts to utilize flexible instruction days.
  • The importance of funding Pennsylvania’s libraries.
  • Mandatory training for students in hands-only CPR.
  • How the internet and digital technology affects the need for funding for libraries.
  • Ways to improve the education funding formula.
  • Governor Wolf’s veto of legislation last year that would have provided resources for agriculture education.
  • The impact of the additional funding dedicated to the Erie School District.
  • Ways the Department could intervene before school districts become insolvent.
  • How to improve the teacher evaluation system.
  • Providing education about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Desired outcomes and performance of adult literacy programs.
  • Concerns about early childhood education and community college funding.
  • An update on career and technical education grants for equipment purchases.
  • Funding disparities between programs for public and non-public schools.
  • The need to reevaluate all aspects of education funding and ensure fair funding between school districts.

Full Hearing

Department of Aging

I question Acting Secretary Robert Torres about state funding for elder abuse efforts, waiting lists for PENNCARE programs and distribution of Lottery Fund monies.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Robert Torres, Acting Secretary of Aging, and Tom Snedden, Director of the PACE program, on several issues important to Pennsylvania’s older residents, including:

  • Guidelines for Senior Community Center grants.
  • A potential decline in Lottery Fund resources.
  • Projected increases in Pennsylvania’s senior citizen population.
  • Elder abuse prevention measures.
  • Waiting lists for PENNCARE programs.
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren because of the opioid crisis.
  • Pharmaceutical cost transparency.
  • Training on opioid prescribing.
  • Statewide funding for Area Agencies on Aging.

Full Hearing 

Wednesday

Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

PA Adjutant General Anthony Carrelli fielded questions from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about issues relating to Pennsylvania’s military community during a hearing on the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, including:

  • A proposal to enable re-enlisting members of the PA National Guard to earn free college tuition for their families.
  • Suicide rates among veterans in PA and what is being done to provide more mental health resources.
  • Transferring military service skills for certification in private industry.
  • Efforts to move away from traditional institutional care for veteran senior citizens to community-based settings and how that will impact veterans homes.
  • Proposed cuts in mental health funding.
  • Construction and rehabilitation efforts at the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie
  • Efforts to make certification requirements easier and more timely for military spouses.
  • What Pennsylvania can do to further help members of the military and their family transition to private industry.

Full Hearing

Department of Agriculture

3/6/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Agriculture

Dog licensing fees and animal law enforcement, the costs of the Homegrown by Heroes program, and cicada issues were among the topics I discussed with Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

Senate Appropriations Committee members discussed several topics of interest to Pennsylvania’s farmers during the budget hearing with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. The topics included:

  • The emerging field of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania.
  • Poultry and wild bird diseases.
  • The PA Preferred program and the value of its trademark.
  • Centers for Agricultural Excellence.
  • Need for a dog licensing fee increase.
  • Long-term fiscal viability of the Farm Show Complex.
  • Efforts to protect livestock and poultry from disease outbreaks.
  • Personnel available for agricultural preparedness and response efforts.
  • Veterinarians’ role in the opioid crisis.
  • The Governor’s proposed elimination of funding for hardwoods research.
  • The state’s frozen dessert license.
  • The impact of commercial travel bans during winter storms.
  • Deer farms’ role in the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
  • Crop damage payments and Sunday hunting to control the deer population.
  • Costs of the Homegrown by Heroes program.
  • Response to issues with cicadas.
  • A multi-state dairy summit.
  • Use of third-party inspectors.
  • Revenues from fireworks sales.
  • Performance of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Full Hearing 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners

3/6/19 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Ben Franklin Technology Partners

I discussed Pennsylvania’s attractiveness to entrepreneurs and the selection process for companies with the representatives of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee raised several issues during the budget hearing with Stephen Brawley, President of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania; Chadwick Paul, President of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania; Scott Nissenbaum, Chief Investment Officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania; and Rich Lunak, President of Innovation Works. Issues discussed included:

  • Pennsylvania’s attractiveness to entrepreneurs.
  • The selection process for companies.
  • Technology development programs in other states.
  • Resources that could be developed by additional state funding.
  • Companies and jobs created through Ben Franklin.
  • Innovation Works efforts to develop new companies in southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Potential spin-off companies from the Beaver County cracker plant.
  • Investments in life sciences and electronics.
  • Regulatory barriers that impede business development.
  • The interstate competition of economic development incentives.

Full Hearing 

Thursday

PA Gaming Control Board

The committee hearing with PA Gaming Control Board featured Executive Director Kevin O’Toole, Chief Counsel Douglas Sherman and Chairman David Barasch, and covered the following topics related to the expansion of gaming in the commonwealth:

  • Monitoring video game terminals via a central control system.
  • Legislation allowing municipalities to opt out of truck stop VGTs.
  • An update on the status of the Big Beaver mini-casino application.
  • Regulations for video gaming at truck stops.
  • Gaming’s impact on horse racing.
  • The health of PA’s horse racing industry following the expansion of gaming in the commonwealth.
  • Bill requiring that revenue from gaming expansion be used to provide long-promised property tax relief.
  • iGaming’s impact on gambling addiction & local share assessments.
  • Safeguards to keep children from gambling online.
  • The fees paid by gaming institutions to fund regulatory actions.
  • The need for a long-term gaming strategy for Pennsylvania.

Full Hearing 

Department of Community and Economic Development

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Secretary Dennis Davin about the state’s film tax credit program and other initiatives during the budget hearing on the Department of Community & Economic Development. Topics discussed included:

  • Offering incentives to Amazon, but not to Urban Outfitters.
  • Reduced state support for public television.
  • The need for regulation reform.
  • Filling existing job vacancies.
  • Best ways to invest economic development funding. 
  • The performance of state tax credit programs.
  • Early Intervention and CRIZ programs.
  • The economic impact of the Shell cracker plant.
  • The role of workforce development in the economy.

Full Hearing 

Budget Secretary

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee closed out three weeks of budget hearings with a session with Budget Secretary Jen Swails. Topics discussed included:

  • Transfers between funds and transparency issues.
  • Reduced funding for school safety.
  • The role of performance-based budgeting.
  • Employee benefits and pension costs.
  • The performance of film tax credits.
  • Pennsylvania’s level of debt and borrowing.
  • The variety of special funds in the budget.
  • The year-end revenue estimate for FY 2018-19.
  • Projections for the Lottery Fund.
  • The state’s fiscal outlook.

Full Hearing

Around the 40th District

We recently joined the Nazareth Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce in welcoming Investigative Screening Solutions to the Nazareth area. We wish you all the best as you continue to grow your business throughout our region!

On Monday night representatives from my office joined Rep. Joe Emrick, the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and Friends of Minsi Lake for an informational meeting on the Minsi Lake project. Contractor KC Construction Company has begun the dam reconstruction project, which will include the use of heavy equipment. Prior to and during construction, equipment will remain in the west parking lot, creating an active construction zone which will be open only to authorized personnel.

Visitors who use the PFBC property around Minsi Lake are asked to avoid the west parking lot and the additional active construction zone around the dam. Signage will be posted on the property notifying the public of restricted access points. The remainder of the property remains open for public recreation, such as hiking.

The $4.8 million-dollar project at Minsi Lake will include the construction of a new reinforced concrete spillway. In addition, the crest of the dam will be raised approximately two feet to upgrade the dam’s spillway capacity. Construction is expected to be completed by November, 2019 with a goal of refilling of the lake by spring of 2020 depending on the weather.

Lake Minsi Project Fact Sheet

Up Next

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, March 18 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.

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