In this Update:
August 10: ATC Trail to Town Family Jamboree in Wind Gap
Continuing the Fight for School Property Tax Reform
School property taxes.
Just the mere mention of this hated tax prompts calls of “Pass HB/SB 76 now!” “Eliminate or nothing!” and any manner of blame leveled at the state, the schools and even our teachers.
Others chalk up school property tax elimination as a fairy tale saying, “That’ll happen when the train comes!”
Some will even point their frustration at me as the sole reason nothing has happened. But, no matter how many times you repeat something, it doesn’t make it true.
Even simply using the word “reform” will raise objections that one does not support “elimination.” However, for today’s purposes, I will use reform to speak generally about all the school property tax proposals being considered.
Here is my straightforward assessment of where we have been and where we are headed with school property tax reform.
I have introduced or co-sponsored school property tax elimination and reduction proposals going back 15 years, from plans that would have reduced school property taxes by 50% to current proposals like Senate Bill 76 that propose full elimination on all properties.
Following the overwhelming 2017 public vote in favor of expanding the Commonwealth’s Homestead Exclusion Program, I introduced a bill that would eliminate school property taxes on all owner-occupied homes. As school property tax relief measures have faced resistance, I have also begun work on a proposal to provide relief specifically to seniors.
My pro-reform colleagues and I have all said until we are blue in the face – our seniors have not had children in school for decades and they are being forced to make critical decisions between such expenses as food and medication versus paying their property taxes. Despite years of paying their taxes faithfully, they never truly own their home.
No matter what approach we take, one fact remains to pass any proposal: you need the support of 26 Senators, 102 Representatives and a Governor willing to sign a bill.
School property tax reform is not a Republican or Democrat issue – it’s a regional one. The fight for reform is generally between the less-populated, yet faster growing regions like ours and the slower growing, more populous urban areas of the Commonwealth. Any area with a population that has remained stable or declined has seen less pressure on the school tax. Less people means less buildings and fewer staff needs.
I have always pleaded the case for our region and our historic lack of education funding, but powers-that-be from the decade before I took office saw the writing on the wall and preserved funding for their areas, many of which were in decline, at the expense of growing areas like ours. Now, thirty years later, the areas of the state that receive their “fair share” of education funding still fight against areas like ours who were left to fight over pennies.
In May of 2015, the Governor paid a visit to Monroe County schools. When he was questioned on school property taxes, the Pocono Record reported, “There is a choice, he said, of supporting public education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some.” Later the following year, the Lieutenant Governor cast the deciding vote against school property tax reform in the state Senate.
Let me be clear – if even one senior or family loses their home to school taxes, that’s one too many. I am hopeful the Governor works with the Legislature to pass a proposal that provides real reform and actual relief, not just more dollars to the areas that already have them.
I have been told conversations between Senate and House leadership are being held this summer to develop consensus on a reform proposal that could pass both chambers with the Governor’s support. I will also take part in a Senate policy hearing in August to discuss ways to move these school property tax proposals forward.
Some may choose to attack and berate me for my work on reform, while letting legislators who have been silent on this issue off the hook. There may be others working as hard as me on reform, but there is no one working harder.
Politics is rarely an all-or-nothing game and, when it comes to school property taxes, I would rather a bite at the apple than no apple at all. Otherwise, we may find ourselves no closer to reform and having this same conversation in another 15 years.
My promise to you is that I will continue the fight. I hope others do the same.
New Property Tax Proposal Does Not Have My Support
My office has received many calls today in opposition to a new plan to eliminate school property taxes – one that would rely in large part on a tax on retirees’ pensions.
While I welcome the work of fellow legislators to think creatively and pass a proposal that would truly rescue our homeowners, I DO NOT support taxing seniors’ pensions. These seniors comprise many of the very individuals we are trying to help by elimination of school property taxes!
Further details on the bill are provided in the article here.
Scavello Announces $1 Million Grant for Construction of Shared West End Emergency Services Facility
I am happy to announced the approval of a $1 million state grant to help pay for the construction of Shared West End Emergency Services Facility in Chestnuthill Township.
Chestnuthill Township proposes to build the two-story Shared Emergency Services Facility at a centrally located site at the corner of Fire House Lane and Route 715.
The new building will serve as an all-in-one facility with space for the West End Volunteer Fire Company, West End Community Ambulance Association, and a Regional West End Emergency Operations Center. The center will serve Chestnuthill, Jackson, Eldred, Ross, Polk and Hamilton townships and provide an administrative backup location for the Monroe County Control Center.
The funds were made available through the Redevelopment Assistance Capitol Program, which is administered by the Office of the Budget.
I am pleased to have worked to secure this funding because it serves the public safety interests of not only the West End, but surrounding townships as well. Projects that deliver public safety in an efficient manner are good for the community.
Scavello to Host Free Roundtable Breakfast in Recognition of Monroe County Meals on Wheels Day
Join me Saturday, August 17 at 7:30 a.m. for a FREE roundtable breakfast in recognition of Monroe County Meals on Wheels Day. The breakfast will be held at Brodhead Brew (85 Crystal St., East Stroudsburg).
I am hosting this free breakfast for area residents to discuss current legislative issues and also to share how Meals on Wheels helps our community. Please RSVP by Friday, August 9 to 570-620-4326.
Tuesday is National Night Out, a chance for families to gather with law enforcement in neighborhoods and parks and strengthen police-community partnerships.
Getting to know police and neighbors is a great way to build safer communities. I hope you have a great evening of camaraderie.
Wednesday is Purple Heart Day in Pennsylvania, when we take time to honor members of the armed forces wounded in action.
The Purple Heart is the nation’s oldest military award and ranks behind the bronze star and ahead of the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in order of precedence. We must offer our respect and support to military veterans wounded in defense of our nation.
Around the 40th District
I want to extend a special congratulations to Paul Connolly Jr and Jacob Auger of Troop 33 in Bath for reaching the rank of Eagle. Both Paul and Jacob have held a number of leadership roles within the Troop and exemplify the tenets of the Scout Oath and Law. Awesome work, Paul and Jacob!
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to take part in a legislative tour of the new Brookdale Recovery Center in Swiftwater. Every aspect of this new facility has been given the utmost care and attention to provide the highest quality drug and alcohol rehabilitation services possible. A massive investment of capital turned this defunct resort around into a facility that, once complete, will employ over 200 people with high paying jobs – and many of them local. I’m excited to see Brookdale open and begin meeting an immense need in our communities, helping individuals and their families break the cycle of addiction.
On Tuesday, I celebrated the expansion of Tolino Vineyards with the ribbon cutting for their second location. Tolino Vineyards Stroudsburg is located on North 7th Street. I encourage you to stop by and support this local small business!
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