In this Update:
January Legislative Report with Faith Christian School
On the latest edition of Legislative Report, I visit with, Bruce Stewart, School Board Chairman and Leeann Long, Principle, of Faith Christian School in Roseto Borough. Established in 1980, Faith Christian provides a Christ-centered education for students starting in kindergarten through high school.
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2019 Pennsylvania Tax Forms Available
My district offices now have available 2019 Pennsylvania personal income tax books, forms, and envelopes. Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program applications should be available by mid-to-late February. This program assists eligible Pennsylvanians 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. Although our office does not carry federal income tax forms we are happy to print them for you. Both my Pen Argyl and Scotrun district offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday.
Scavello spearheads bill to close property tax revenue gap
The following article was printed in the Pocono Record on January 14. Our offices have since received calls with questions about the two bills mentioned in the article. To clarify, SB805 is implementing legislation which will provide the revenue necessary to eliminate school property taxes off of owner-occupied homes via the homestead exclusion expansion that was passed by voters in 2017. The second bill mentioned that I have proposed is currently being drafted and seeking co-sponsors. This bill provides for much needed school property tax relief for senior citizens across the Commonwealth.
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.”
Around the 40th District
Last weekend I attended the Eagle Scout ceremony for Brandon Michael Burchartz and Connor Logan Kearns. The Eagle Scout Award is the highest rank in scouting, with only 2% of all scouts attaining this rank. They worked together to rehabilitate the Bell School in Cherry Valley. Congratulations to Brandon and Connor!
It was my pleasure to visit with Nazareth Area Middle School students this week for their Second Annual Pennsylvania History Day. Virtue, Liberty, and Independence. These three words form the motto of Pennsylvania and the backbone of the Keystone State. This motto can been seen throughout the writings of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, all of which had been composed in Pennsylvania.
As one of the original 13 colonies as founded by William Penn, Pennsylvania has played a major role in the foundation and success of the nation It was an honor to see the 8th grade students of Nazareth Area Middle School coming together to celebrate the great state of Pennsylvania. The students did an amazing job!
This week I had an opportunity to see the great work the staff of Davita is providing to dialysis patients in our community. I am pictured with Dr. Pete Casale and the great staff at the Route 447 location in Smithfield Township.
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