New report on property taxes in Pa. says reforms are needed, but that a legislative effort to get rid of school property taxes entirely is unnecessary.
A new report on property taxes in the state says reforms are needed, but that a legislative effort to get rid of school property taxes entirely is misguided and unnecessary. Property taxes throughout Pennsylvania average about 3.07 percent of personal income, slightly lower than the national average of 3.31 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. However, rates vary throughout the state, and in 30 school districts property taxes exceed four percent of income, what’s considered a high tax. The Center’s Director, Sharon Ward, said the inconsistency may surprise some. “We really have found that although property taxes are probably universally disliked, they’re not universally high,” she said. Senate Bill 76, introduced by Senator David Argall (R), proposes to do away with property taxes set by school districts to give relief from what many consider a burdensome tax. But the report says more moderate reforms would better serve taxpayers and schools, which are largely funded by property taxes.
The Center suggests increasing state funding for schools, improving tax relief and rebate programs, and focusing specifically on the six percent of school districts with high property taxes. The Center’s Research Director, Michael Wood, said the state should also contribute funds so counties can conduct property reassessments more regularly. “Property assessments are not current in many counties of the state, two-thirds of the counties haven’t had a county-wide reassessment this century. A handful of counties haven’t had a systematic reassessment since the 1960s,” he said. “Old assessments are a problem because they may no longer be accurate. Some people are likely paying too much while others are paying too little.” Attempts to eliminate property taxes have come up before in the legislature. So far this session, Senate Bill 76 has not seen a vote on the floor.