In this Update:
Scavello spearheads bill to close property tax revenue gap
The following article was printed in the Pocono Record on January 14:
State Sen. Mario Scavello (R-40) was excited to hear state Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s (R-25) call for a vote on school property tax reform on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
“Every week, we are in the Capitol is another week that citizens in my district, especially our seniors, are suffocating under the weight of ever-increasing school property taxes,” Scavello said. “Many individuals have reached out to me to say that school property taxes should be eliminated for all — I agree with them. I would vote for full elimination tomorrow; however, to date, those proposals have not had the votes to pass.”
Scavello explained that Senate Pro Tempore is the highest position in the senate, and after Scarnati was sworn in on Jan. 7, he committed to run the school property tax bill on the floor this session, this year.
“What I do regularly when we are in session is I get up and speak about school taxes and people hurting because of school taxes, especially seniors,” Scavello said. “I speak about specific stories from people in our community that have written to me and about the problems they are having.”
Scavello has spent more than 15 years supporting Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76, which would eliminate school property taxes. Recently, he introduced Senate Bill 805 to provide the revenue necessary to eliminate school property taxes on owner-occupied homes via the homestead exclusion.
Senate Bill 805 has bipartisan support. The bill is sponsored by senators Lisa Boscola (D-18), Patrick Stefano (R-32), James Brewster (D-45), and John Yudichak (I-14).
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Scavello said he knows the Pro Tem was listening, “I know my comments were being heard.”
“I’ll support any bill that comes forward and helps people with property tax, any bill” Scavello said.
Scavello described heartbreaking stories of constituents who have been taxed out of their homes, seniors who have seen large increases in their school property tax bills during their retirement, widowers who were forced to sell off all their possessions and even the most dire cases of people taking their lives over losing their homes due to unpaid taxes.
“If I could single-handedly force change, I would. But it takes 26 senators, 102 representatives and the governor to pass a proposal- right now we only have 17 votes,” Scavello said. “If we don’t have the votes for any of these specific bills, then we should at least do something for the seniors. We are all going to be seniors one day.”
Scavello is proposing a half-percent increase in sales tax to provide for a property tax rebate of up to $5,000 for all seniors age 65 and older who have an annual household income of less than $60,000.
Representative Maureen Madden (D-115) said she is open to supporting Scavello’s bill when and if it comes her way. She claims she too will be rolling out her own bill that is similar in nature.
“I’m open to the possibility of supporting Scavello’s bill, depending on the details of the bill,” said Madden. “We are all just trying to give relief to seniors. I have a woman living in Pocono Pines who’s mortgage has been paid off for years, her husband died and she is living off social security of $1,300 monthly and her property taxes are $6,500 per year, it just is not sustainable.
“Something has to be done.” Madden said.
Madden is proposing legislation that would implement a $2,000 rebate for homesteads and farmsteads to reduce or eliminate school property taxes. She would fund this rebate by establishing a 0.98% surtax on the personal income tax.
“Many of our senior citizens have had no choice but to sell their homes because they no longer can afford school property taxes, which only continues to increase,” said Madden. “My bill or Mario’s bill is just going to be a band-aid until legislation takes on the hard job of making school funding equitable for all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania. We have 185 school districts that are underfunded.”
“When a senior leaves their house, you know what happens? They are often replaced with a family, with a couple of children, who now create a $40,000 school tax expense to the district, at the average cost of $20,000 per student per year,” Scavello said. “So keeping seniors in their homes actually helps everyone.”
Free Tick Testing
The Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab at East Stroudsburg University offers FREE basic testing to all Pennsylvania residents.
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Once you have completed your order, you will be sent a receipt and mailing label you can use to mail your tick in to the laboratory at ESU. Send your tick to ESU in a small plastic bag, and they will provide you with your test results within 72 hours after they receive your tick.
Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Closures
All PennDOT driver license and photo centers, including its full-service center in Harrisburg will be closed Saturday, January 18, through Monday, January 20, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Additionally, all Senate offices are also closed for the holiday and will re-open Tuesday, January 21.
Full-time fall college students have until Feb. 14 to apply for the PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program 2020.
Jobs include seasonal maintenance work, crash system input and analysis, and maintenance and custodial services at roadside rest facilities. Many students also perform laborer and flagging duties in maintenance organizations and at highway worksites. The pay is $13.97/hr.
Around the 40th District
I want to offer a very special congratulations to Haltermans Used Car Center who recently celebrated the grand opening of their new location in Tannersville. They completed a beautiful total renovation of their building and offer a high quality inventory of used vehicles on Route 611 in the center of Pocono Township. We wish you much success in the years ahead!
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with St. Luke’s physicians and senior administration to discuss healthcare and government. Thank you for hosting and provoking thoughtful and meaningful conversations surrounding the health of our community.
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