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Why school property taxes need to be eliminated!
Two excellent essays on the fallacy of property taxes for education funding.


PTCC Archive

24 July 2006

Dear Friends,

A lot has happened since my last letter, so this may be a bit long.

Most of the member groups of the statewide alliance met in the Capitol on Friday, July 21 to formalize our coalition and to adopt resolutions to be presented to the Governor and the Legislature. Here are the highlights:

The alliance’s official name is now the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations. It currently numbers nineteen member groups from throughout the Commonwealth. We are continuing our efforts to find and enlist other taxpayer advocacy groups from across the state.

After four hours of spirited debate, the Coalition unanimously approved a resolution that demands immediate resumption of work on property tax reform and calls for the repeal of Act 1, the tax “relief” bill passed in June. A second resolution was approved that supports a bill that calls for the banning of teachers’ strikes in Pennsylvania. They are attached as a Word document along with the associated press release. (See the links at the left of this page.)

The press release has been distributed to all media outlets in Pennsylvania; please be on the lookout for publication in your area. It also has been sent to all members of the legislature and to the Governor, along with copies of the signed resolutions.

The Reading Eagle covered the story in its Saturday edition but, like the last story regarding tax reform, it has somehow disappeared from their website. It was basically information from our press release combined with a rehash of the Act 1 provisions. The really interesting items were a declaration from Governor Rendell’s office that he will not support repeal of Act 1, and a comment from Rep. Thomas Caltagirone regarding repeal: "You would be sticking your finger in the eye of senior citizens, and nobody's going to do that".

It is obvious that the Governor and Rep. Caltagirone, along with other Legislators, just don’t “get it”. They don't understand that they've already stuck their finger in the eye of seniors. Pennsylvania seniors are neither stupid nor unaware. They know that Act 1 was a sham that was perpetrated on the senior citizens to buy their votes in November and to repay the gambling interests for their generous contributions to the Governor's and the Legislators' campaign coffers. The coalition already has the support of many senior citizens, and the list is growing daily. We will continue to seek the support of individual seniors in advance of the November elections.

A further idea to come out of Friday’s meeting is to pursue the support of local and statewide senior citizens’ groups to prove to the Legislators that the seniors do not support the Act 1 (HB 39) tax “reform” measure. We are planning the strategy now, and I will keep you informed on our progress during the coming weeks.

We also will be talking with all Legislators statewide over the next few months to find who supports true property tax reform and who supports the status quo. Those who refuse to work on this issue for the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania will have their names publicized prior to the November elections in the hope that concerned citizens will vote for more agreeable candidates to fill their seats in the legislature.

All said, it was a VERY constructive meeting and we got a lot accomplished. We hope that you will continue your support of this issue.

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Tony Phyrillas, a columnist for the Pottstown Mercury, appeared on the PCN television program Journalists’ Roundtable on Thursday (7/20) with Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Sharon Smith of the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Tony gave the alliance a very good mention on the show that has resulted in more members being added to this list. It also piqued the interest of Mr. Bumsted, who had a long conversation with me following the taping. I hope that we have made a new connection!

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Vic Lawson of the Bradford County Concerned Citizens sent an interesting letter to his membership. Please note all of the groups that get to skim the profits before anyone receives any tax relief.

There's been several variations of an email going around saying New Jersey lost $1.3 million dollars a day ($474.5 million per year) during the budget impasse and used that number as a comparison for the supposed $1 billion Pennsylvania is going to collect. It was also noted that New Jersey has a lot more slot machines than projected for PA and has all sorts of other gambling games available in their casinos. The numbers we received from local legislators nearly a year ago was PA would be lucky to get $250 million per year in slots revenue. Yesterday, I received a package in the mail along with a copy of a document from the Pennsylvania League titled "What's the Impact of the Property Tax Relief Package Passed by the Legislature?". It states, "before property tax relief for all homeowners can happen, there are a number of other entities that take their share of gambling proceeds off the top:

• The horse racing industry gets a cut for jockey pension, increased purses and more;

• Funding to host communities helps pay for the increased cost associated with having slot parlors in the community;

• Volunteer fire companies get a cut;

• Funding is set aside for compulsive gambling treatment fund; (doesn't mention anything about funding for increases in crime in those communities)

• The State Departments of Revenue and Community and Economic Development (DCED), the new Gaming Board and other administrative bodies get their share for administrative costs; (payment to the kingdom builders who undoubtedly will do everything possible to grow bigger kingdoms)

• The PA Convention Center in Philadelphia and the Sports and Exhibition Authority in Allegheny County get a share;

• And seniors get their tax relief and rent rebates first.

What's left over goes to homeowners – eventually.”

Out of the $250 million the state might get (using New Jersey as a comparison), the first six items listed should eat that all up leaving "0" millions of squat for taxpayers, senior or otherwise. The article mentions nothing about the wealthy investors, track and parlor owners that will become even wealthier. The whole scam looks like something dreamed up as a political payback to heavy-duty campaign contributors. We all knew HB39 was a pipe dream from the beginning. If New Jersey can't collect $500 million from a huge gambling venture, how will PA collect even $250 million? You'll notice on the list of seven items in the ALEC document, seniors get paid last. Sounds like HB39 wasn't intended for property tax relief at all, but to fund the six items listed. "What's left over goes to homeowners" is a hoax with the bigger hoax more like if there's anything left over, seniors might get a few dollars off their tax bills.

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My letter to the Governor, sent last week:

The issue at hand is not necessarily Act 1's potential revenue, but the amount of "relief" that it offers to already overburdened taxpayers.

My school taxes on a modest home in the Governor Mifflin SD are currently $3700 after another 6% increase this year. My "relief", according to your website, is $61 WHEN the funds become available. This is meaningless and, quite frankly, insulting. Further, even though the state budget has increased their subsidy, the district has refused to reopen their budget and rescind even a part of that increase.

It is the opinion of many Pennsylvania taxpayers that Act 1 was passed primarily to legitimize casino gaming rather than to provide meaningful property tax relief. Be brutally honest for a moment and admit that this has been the Governor's agenda all along, ever since he pushed for riverboat gambling on the Delaware while mayor of Philadelphia. The House, under his leadership, had the opportunity to pass a real tax relief measure in the Commonwealth Caucus Plan, but it was rejected in favor of HB 39 and the gambling interests.

Pennsylvania taxpayers, including many senior citizens' groups, are thoroughly disgusted by this obvious chicanery and are banding together to fight Act 1 and demand passage of real school property tax reform. Nineteen local taxpayer advocacy groups that represent thousands of homeowners have joined in a statewide coalition to demand true reform for the people of Pennsylvania. This coalition is building momentum and adding additional groups and individual supporters quickly. We will target in the November elections all recalcitrant politicians who refuse, after the legislature reconvenes, to immediately begin work on meaningful reform. If you thought that the May primaries were bloody, just wait for November!

If the Governor desires to be a true leader who supports the interests of the people of Pennsylvania, he will encourage the legislature to begin work on this issue immediately. If not, he will prove himself to be nothing more than a puppet for the special interests and those who feed his campaign coffers.

As of this writing I’ve received no response.

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The next item is rather scary for those who are having trouble paying their escalating property tax bills. It came in an E-mail from the BCCC.

I read the article about school taxes and the possibility of a tax revolt. I thought you might be interested in some information that Bradford County Tax Claim Director Becky Clark recently shared with me after she attended her annual conference. Right now the 2006 school tax being levied would not be subject to a tax sale until September 2008 if a taxpayer was unable to pay it. The 2006 school tax just levied July 1st will become delinquent January 1, 2007, but taxpayers can make partial payments to the Tax Claim Bureau right up until a possible tax sale in September 2008. This is all according to the PA Tax Sale Law that Becky Clark must follow as Tax Claim Director. Here is where the kicker comes in! The Legislature passed a law last year that allows school districts to bypass the Tax Claim Bureau and contract with an outside collection agency to collect the delinquent property taxes. Becky and I fought this legislation tooth and nail but our legislators thought it gave the schools more options and made it law. The reason the schools like this new option is that the collection agencies are not governed by the Tax Sale Law as Tax Claim Bureaus are and can take a property to tax sale six months from the time it becomes delinquent, and they get their taxes sooner. They can also charge whatever penalties and late fees they want - Becky said one Tax Claim Director saw a property owner pay $3000 to one of these agencies when the original tax was only $1500. None of the school districts in Bradford County have opted for outside agencies to date but that doesn't mean they won't in the near future. These collection companies sense a windfall in going after taxpayers least able to pay and are lobbying really hard with the promise of quick revenues to school districts. You think our taxpayers are being pushed to the limit now? Wait until they only have 6 months and many fees later to pay their taxes! The BCCC needs to watch this like a hawk and if the school districts propose going with an outside collection agency, begin an intense campaign to educate the board members on how detrimental this will be to their property owners.

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For those of you who live in the eastern part of the state: This morning I did a telephone interview about the press release with Reading radio station WEEU news reporter Len Carmen. He'll be using actualities from the interview with a wraparound story from the release on the newscasts tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 7/24).

WEEU has a pretty hot signal, so many of you in the eastern part of the state may be able to hear it. WEEU is located at AM 830.

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Just so you aren’t surprised when you receive this: Sometime during the next week or so I’ll be sending you a very short E-mail that you can forward as an invitation to others to join this list. The Coalition’s momentum is building very nicely and we’d like to add as many supporters as we can. Please help when you receive that E-mail by sending it to as many people as possible who might be interested.

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That’s it for today.

As usual, please forward this E-mail to anyone who might be interested and encourage them to join this list by sending an E-mail to

Thank you very much for your continuing support.

David Baldinger