property taxes

If you have ever paid your property taxes and wondered why you were making the check out to the treasurer’s name rather than to the office, you are not alone.  State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks) has introduced a bill that would make such a practice illegal.

“This is a very bad practice, it’s a loophole that is ripe for abuse and fraud,” Mackenzie said. “Individuals collect taxes in their name and instead of depositing it into the tax account it makes its way into their individual account.”

When House Republicans presented their own proposal to cut local property taxes, the sponsoring lawmaker threw down a gauntlet along with it.

Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) said he doubts Gov. Tom Wolf's property-tax relief plan has support within his own party.

"Nobody over there has introduced his plan," said Saylor. "If he thinks his plan's so good, I would love to see a Democrat introduce his plan. And they've had more than, what, two months to do it."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Republican-controlled state House will press ahead in the coming weeks with a plan to cut local school property taxes across the commonwealth.

Flickr user Joseph A

Pittsburgh homeowners who are scrambling to meet a Feb. 10 deadline for early payment of taxes, which entitles them to a 2 percent discount, can breathe easy.

City Councilman Dan Gilman on Tuesday introduced legislation to extend that deadline to Feb. 28.

He said many taxpayers did not receive their bills until Jan. 31, while others have not received them at all yet.

The state’s major doctors lobby is already gearing up to oppose plans to reduce or eliminate property taxes.

Plans to curb or kill the property taxes levied by school districts didn’t get very far last legislative session. Lawmakers are in the process of reintroducing those proposals.

But the Pennsylvania Medical Society said both proposals would stick medical doctors and their patients with a higher bill.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would raise property taxes by one-half mill, which works out to about $40 a year for a home worth $100,000.

City Finance Director Paul Leger says the city is currently operating at “bare bones” and that failure to pass the millage increase would put the city in violation of Act 47.

Pittsburgh City Council on Monday introduced four bills related to 2015 property taxes, one of which would raise the tax rate by 0.5 mills to 8.06 mills.

That means the city will collect an additional 50 cents for every $1,000 a piece of real estate is worth.

“For a home worth $100,000, it’s about $40/year,” said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The he said, she said debate over state education funding and the controversy surrounding former Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis made its way to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning.

Former gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty spoke in the Allegheny County Courthouse gallery, criticizing Gov. Tom Corbett and stumping for Democratic nominee Tom Wolf.

McGinty is chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a new organization working in tandem with Wolf’s campaign for governor and the campaigns of Democratic legislative nominees statewide.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Property taxes are considered a relatively stable, easy-to-collect tax. In many states government officials conduct regular property reassessments, which help calculate accurate tax bills, without much to do. Not so in Pennsylvania, where reassessments can cause upheaval and dramatic political wrestling matches.

State lawmakers have snubbed two different efforts to reduce property taxes buoyed by recent activism on the issue. But for every season, turn, turn, turn.

Recently proposed tax shifts fit into one of two categories: statewide or local. But a nascent effort from Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) combines both approaches.

"With the increased discussion on property taxes, over the last year or so, I thought maybe it's the right time to try to put together another proposal that kind of meshes some of the different thoughts together," Reed said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Less than a week after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett ended the budget standoff with the state Legislature, he’s setting a new deadline for pension reform: election season.

Corbett was in Shaler Township Monday afternoon pushing an overhaul of the public pension system, which he said is necessary to help struggling school districts and stem the wave of rising property taxes.

Fall property tax collections for the city of Pittsburgh are $3.7 million below projections, according to the second-quarter report published this week by the mayor's finance office.

The millage rate may now need to be raised in order to correct the shortfall, though budget officials say it's too soon to say whether that will be necessary.

A proposal to provide school property tax relief has passed in the state House, but it faces only middling indicators of success in the Senate.

The bill would let school districts opt to reduce or replace property taxes with other levies on earned income and businesses. The measure passed without debate in a legislative body whose members rarely turn down chances for comment.

Calls to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania stretch back decades, but the latest effort is moving at cross-purposes with other bills.

More than 100 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday in support of a plan to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania once and for all.

The plan, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) would replace the levy controlled by school districts with higher rates of the personal income tax and the sales and use tax (the sales tax would also be broadened to apply to more items).

Taking Advantage of the Homestead Tax Exemption

May 29, 2013
Mark Knobil / Flickr

In Allegheny County Homestead tax exemption is a tax break that deducts $85 from every homeowner's property tax bill. It's a useful bit of financial relief for many area homeowners. But residents in Pittsburgh's poorer neighborhoods, where the deduction could be most useful, are not taking advantage of the exemption. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Andrew McGill has reviewed the situation and says, "Amid all the hubbub over re-assessments, I was surprised more people weren't aware of it, and how this lack of awareness is split along income lines."

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council will consider new legislation from Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess that would lay the groundwork for a 2015 property tax relief program for city residents who've both owned their homes for more than ten years and paid higher tax bills following the 2012 property reassessment.

Most of the attention and criticism of the property tax system over the past year has been about the reassessments of more than a half million properties in Allegheny County.

"The law is very clear," said County Controller Chelsa Wagner, "specifically in Allegheny County you cannot have any windfall. That doesn't mean 1 percent, that doesn't mean 5 percent, that means zero."

Two bills up for full votes in the state legislature would prevent municipalities from challenging the tax-exempt statuses of nonprofit organizations by transferring that power to the General Assembly.

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution condemning Senate Bill 4 and its counterpart, House Bill 724. The former is up for a Senate vote on Wednesday.

Because the bill would change the state constitution, it would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by a voter referendum.