In this Update:
Saturday: ATC Trail to Town Family Jamboree in Wind Gap
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.
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.
August Legislative Report: Monroe Career & Technical Institute
Take a behind-the-scene tour of Monroe Career & Technical Institute.
School employees, coaches, volunteers and others required to have child abuse clearances will need to update their 2014 clearances for the upcoming school year.
PA law requires clearances to be updated every five years. Find out if you need a child abuse clearance, apply for a clearance, or update your information here.
The PA Safe2Say Something school threat reporting system received 23,494 tips between its January 2019 start and June 30.
Most focused on students struggling with bullying and mental health issues. The system was created through passage of Act 44 of 2018. You can read the report here.
Around the 40th District
Congratulations to Pearl Eberts of Bath, who is celebrating her 100th birthday today. We celebrated with her as she was surrounded by friends and family at a surprise birthday party at the Bath Senior Center on Wednesday. Happy Birthday Pearl!
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