No issue generates more calls and letters to my office than the school property tax. Finding a way to significantly reduce or eliminate this burden on homeowners remains a top priority for me, but lawmakers have run into difficulties in finding a way to replace this lost revenue and fund our schools. We need to find a solution that eases the burden for homeowners, while at the same time guaranteeing Harrisburg does not shortchange our local schools.
While lawmakers continue to work toward real and meaningful property tax reform, voters will have a chance to make their voices heard on this issue in November by voting on a ballot question that could allow local taxing bodies to completely eliminate property taxes through the existing homestead exemption.
Current law only allows taxing bodies to exempt 50 percent of the median assessed value. Very few local governments have exercised this option since it would allow the property tax to remain in place at a reduced rate while other local taxes would need to be increased. If approved by voters, the ballot question would allow local governments to completely eliminate the property tax for homeowners in their area, which may be a more attractive option for local governments.
The exact language of the ballot question requires a “yes” or “no” response and will read as follows:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?
Passage of the referendum is step one. If the ballot question is passed, the Legislature will have to pass a bill expanding the homestead exclusion program and providing the revenue necessary to eliminate school property taxes on primary homes. As a constitutional amendment, this voter referendum was approved unanimously by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and now requires voter approval.
More information about the ballot question is available here.
Director, Senate Republican Communications
22 East Wing, Main Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120