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Local Lawmakers: House GOP Drops Ball on Property Tax Reassessment Reforms

"While we may not be back to square one, the failure to get this to the governor will put us back many, many months. But we are not giving up this fight," state Rep. Brandon Neuman said.

State Reps. Jesse White, Brandon Neuman and Peter J. Daley II this week criticized House Republican leaders for not bringing up legislation (S.B. 1546) that would enact changes in the way property values are reassessed in the commonwealth.

The bill, which could have gone to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature Wednesday night, would incorporate four major changes to create uniform standards for reassessing property values, as recommended in the Property Reassessment Reform Task Force's recent report.

The lawmakers said that while language in the bill that would have temporarily halted court-ordered countywide property reassessments was stripped by the state Senate, the reforms that were included would have helped to prevent “backdoor” property tax increases and "level the playing field across the commonwealth when counties reassess."

However, because House and Senate Republican leaders have said they would not hold any votes following the Nov. 6 general election, all legislation not done by Wednesday evening will expire at the end of the legislative session on Nov. 30 and will have to be reintroduced in 2013.

"Instead of passing the most sweeping reforms to the property tax process in decades and handing a huge victory to Pennsylvania taxpayers, House Republican leaders abruptly ended the legislative session and told House members to have a nice day and see you next year," said. "It's a massive failure of leadership by the House majority."

The lawmaker continued: "The reforms contained in the bill could have helped to restore the reassessment process to its original, intended use and eliminate the ability to use reassessment as a weapon to dramatically increase property taxes, as we have seen in Washington County when McGuffey and Washington school districts sued to force reassessment. Instead, all the hard work of the Reassessment Task Force to find real solutions to this broken system was cast aside."

, agreed.

"This has been a painstaking, bipartisan effort to fix a flawed reassessment system and protect constituents from huge property tax increases," he said. "While we may not be back to square one, the failure to get this to the governor will put us back many, many months. But we are not giving up this fight, and we will come back even louder and stronger in the next legislative session."

Currently, each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties reassess under a different system with no statewide standards. Under S.B. 1546, the system of reassessing property values would have changed by:

  • Creating in consultation with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the Assessors' Association of Pennsylvania an Operations Manual to be used by counties when completing a countywide reassessment or when valuating property;
  • Creating a centralized and standardized statewide database for counties to use and report all property values and data as required;
  • Developing a statewide training program for everyone involved in the valuation of property in every county. These programs would provide basic and detailed training that must be completed and passed by any person working in the commonwealth that is collecting, compiling, computing or handling data associated with the valuation of any property;
  • Developing standards on contracting for assessment services in consultation with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the International Association of Assessing Officers. This would include a provision stating that the methodology used by any person, company or organization to value property in the commonwealth shall be made public and that all data and calculations are the property of the county and the commonwealth.

The Property Reassessment Reform Task Force, which was created under legislation authored by White and Neuman, was established to create a set of uniform standards for reassessing property values in the commonwealth, including developing new procedures for collecting and verifying reassessment data, developing standards for county reassessment contracting, and making other recommendations to improve the commonwealth’s flawed reassessment system.

Of the task force’s many findings, concerns and questions continually surfaced surrounding the data that the State Tax Equalization Board generates for purposes of reassessment, the lawmakers indicated.

STEB data was often found to be an inaccurate and unreliable statistical tool to determine the need for a county to conduct a reassessment. Under the bill discarded Wednesday, the State Tax Equalization Board Law (Act 447 of 1947) would have been repealed and STEB established within DCED.

Jason Parks October 20, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Yeah talk about a failure of leadership, Jesse. Are you actually saying this is the first and only time reassessment legislation could have been introduced? Maybe you can remind me which bill you authored this year, last year or the year before that addressed the issue. Maybe if you didn't spend so much time drumming up conspiracy theories and attacking the largest job base in your district you'd have time to actually do your job as a legislator. Four percent, buddy. And I'd advise anyone running for office this year to stay as far away from Jesse White as possible. He's a job killing extremist. But on the plus side, thanks to his "vision" you can get a tax credit for adopting a dog.
Jesse White October 21, 2012 at 04:51 AM
So factually inaccurate, yet so hateful.
David Baldinger October 21, 2012 at 05:56 AM
Representative White, just one question. Instead of playing games trying to repair an assessment system that is inequitable and broken and can't be fixed, why haven't you and Representative Neuman been working for the enactment of HB 1776, bipartisan legislation that would have eliminated the school property tax forever? This legislation is supported by a coalition of 76 taxpayer groups from across the state and would make a profound difference for homeowners. And please don't tell me that the numbers in HB 1776 don't work. The IFO analysis of the legislation showed the plan to $1.5 billion underfunded, but when you restore the $341 million sales tax on telecommunications that was inadvertently omitted, the deficit drops to $1.16 billion. This can be covered with an additional 0.33% increase in the PIT.
David Baldinger October 21, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Continued... The IFO report projects that in year five after enactment HB 1776 will save $1.152 billion in replacement revenue and the total cost of education compared to the growth of property taxes if that system remains in place (Page 4, fourth line from the bottom). Property taxes historically rise at greater than three times the level of inflation (which, by the way, is unsustainable in the long term); HB 1776 limits the growth of the replacement funding to the rate of inflation. The analysis states that disposable income of property taxpayers increases; spending that additional income generates more sales tax. (Pages 17-18) The analysis indicates that HB 1776 will cause home equity to increase by more than 10% statewide, restoring a big chunk of the equity that was lost during the 2008 housing downturn. (Page 23) The analysis further predicts that the increase in home values mentioned above would generate more property tax revenue for counties and municipalities through higher assessments. Increased home values would also generate additional realty transfer taxes of $25 to $35 million annually. (Page 18) These are just a few of the benefits of total elimination. Considering this, why would anyone want to consider more Band-aid solutions like trying to fix the assessment system?
ulala October 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM
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Jason Parks October 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Which parts are inaccurate/hateful? The part about you using reassessment as a political football while purporting to support the little guy? Or the part about you bashing the gas industry every chance you get? What's your reluctance to ever just provide answers? Obviously Patch has no issue acting as your personal forum. I'd have no issue with it either if you would just answer questions and/or be honest. So I'll gibe you yet another opportunity to be honest. Which bill have you personally proposed in the last three years that would address reassessment? I'd like to read it. As I said if you would spend your time actually looking out for your constituents instead of trying to kill jobs you might have a better shot at winning over people. You spend a lot of time on here and Facebvook and Twitter doing nothing but bashing Republicans, state agencies and gas drillers. Why not use your time to do constructive things and show the taxpaers you actually deserve the state pension you'll get?
Jason Parks October 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM
And why is it up to people like me to keep seeking answers? The media should be asking about this stuff. Look at the observer reporter. It just runs editorials from Jesse white with no counter points at all and no fact checking. Its like a comic book. At least on this site there's some back and forth but Amanda, you have to start challenging some of this. You're serving everyone in the area, not just people who agree with White.
Disgusted Cecil Resident October 21, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Mr Parks u are absolutely spot on. Mr White needs to get a real job!!!! Preferably drilling for gas.
Me October 21, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Maybe Jesse and John Smith can work togeather
Amanda Gillooly October 21, 2012 at 11:20 PM
If you'd like a forum, Jason, you may feel free to blog or write a guest column—as anyone in the community may. Some lawmakers have chosen to do the same for several of the Patch sites—not just White. Just wanted to let you know the offer is on the table. If anyone has questions, just give me a call or email. 724-510-5659. Also, let's please keep the comments on topic. Thanks!

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