City Council Endorses Bill to End Allegheny County Property Tax

May 15, 2012

Pittsburgh City Council has endorsed a Pennsylvania Senate bill that would freeze Allegheny County's property reassessment and possibly end property taxation in the county and its municipalities.

The bill from Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) would allow Allegheny County Council to end the use of property taxes through an ordinance. If that happens, each taxing body within the county would be authorized to raise other taxes in order to meet, but not exceed, the current amount of income from property taxes.

If the Council doesn't act before June 30 of this year, the bill would then set up a countywide ballot referendum, asking voters if they'd like to end property taxes in Allegheny County and make up the revenue by raising other taxes.

If the referendum were to pass, Fontana said each municipality or school district would decide whether to raise its income tax, payroll tax, or any other levy that's listed in the legislation.

"You could do it differently, between the residents — say, a sales tax or an income tax on the residents, but use a square-footage tax for businesses, or a payroll tax for businesses," said Fontana. "It would give the taxing body an option, the ability to choose from a menu of taxes that's in the bill."

In addition to the City Council endorsement, the legislation also picked up support from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. He said he's looking forward to upcoming taxation discussions among elected officials.

"Maybe people will decide to stay with property taxes. I don't think so, but that would certainly be an option under the Fontana bill," said Fitzgerald. "But what you're doing is giving people choices. Right now, it's being imposed upon us by Harrisburg, who said, 'You've got property tax, and that's it.'"

Last winter, Governor Tom Corbett vetoed a bill that would have prohibited reassessments only in Washington County, because he considered it unconstitutional to single out one county. However, Fontana said he doesn't foresee that as a problem with this bill.

Senate Bill 1462 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee last Friday.