Property tax relief question goes to voters

Voters going to the polls Tuesday will not only select candidates for government offices, they will also have an opportunity to decide on a ballot measure opening the door for property tax relief for homeowners.

The proposed amendment to Article VIII of the state constitution would increase the exclusion level up to 100 percent of the value of homes in municipalities, counties or school districts.

“The whole idea is to try and reduce property taxes,” Williamsport Area School District Business Manager Jeff Richards said.

The present exclusion level of homesteads is capped at 50 percent of the median assessed value of all such residences in a local taxing district.

How does this work?

If the median assessed value of a home in a particular school district is $100,000, and the exclusion level is 50 percent, or $50,000, it means property owners with residences valued at $200,000 would pay real estate taxes on $150,000 of the home’s value.

If the ballot question is approved by voters, the state General Assembly could then pass a law authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude up to 100 percent of the assessed value of homestead properties.

That could potentially bring about the elimination of property taxes for many people.

As it stands now, the money for funding present property tax reductions comes from the state’s gambling revenues.

“It is definitely saving individuals money,” Richards said.

The problem, however, comes in finding dollars to replace the lost property tax revenue.

Given the state’s problems in funding its budget, that may not be easy, especially if taxpayers feel they will have to reach deeper into their pockets.

“I don’t see it happening,” Richards said.

He noted he does favor the ballot measure, however.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said if the ballot measure passes, it at least offers a starting point for property tax relief.

But taking away or reducing one funding source, means somehow making up that lost revenue.

“If we are ever to get property tax relief, we will need a combination of personal income tax and sales tax increases,” he said.