York Mayor Kim Bracey, during a recent forum addressing city problems, urged lawmakers to consider meaningful statewide property tax reform, adding that anything other than a complete overhaul of the system would be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Regressive, antiquated, unpredictable, and onerous, school property taxes are the greatest inhibitor to economic and community development. Unchecked spikes in property taxes threaten our city’s momentum and progress.
Our cities are rapidly becoming aware of the inadequacies and inequities of Property Tax and for good reason. There is only one piece of legislation in Pennsylvania that will bring real reform to Pennsylvania property owners. That plan is HB 76 and it’s companion Senate version SB 76. It is the only plan that will bring immediate relief to our cities and our property owners.
The school property tax is often 2/3 of the total property tax. Because of the higher cost of the property tax this creates unique problems in the cities. While sheriff sales are happening in all demographics, they are far more common place in the city because of economic factors.
Younger families and the workers in the lower half of the middle income bracket are more apt to purchase a home in the city then they are in the more rural area where homes are more expensive. Many young people start out in a home in the city. The rapid increase in school property taxes is making it harder to attract these people to purchase homes because, while they might be able to afford the mortgage, once the property tax is figured in, it’s cheaper to rent then it is to purchase. Some of the working poor in the cities have abandoned their homes because they can no longer afford the property tax and the higher costs of living. Those that can still cling to their homes often can not afford to make necessary repairs to their homes contributing to more blighted properties.
The Mortgage foreclosure in the cities where homes are more difficult to sell leaves properties empty for long periods of time. These homes become even harder to sell because once empty for a long period of time issues with water pipes and other interior structure problems develop. Empty properties create an additional burden on the cities with law enforcement and ordinance violations. An empty property in the neighborhood creates health and safety risks with uncut high grass that becomes breeding grounds for a variety of city critters. These homes often wind up with broken windows and other additional repair costs, such as breaking into the homes to steal the copper piping that makes the home even harder to sell. The properties become problems with squatters and are often a temptation for our young people. All of this is just adds more more financial strain on our inner cities.
Slum lords and out of area landlords buying up properties in the cities as a result of sheriff tax sales is a real problem that adds to transient populations while driving down property values and adding to blighted properties in the cities. Without the property tax, younger first time homeowners might find it easier to purchase a home in the city which creates a more stable community and school environment.
Transient populations in the city is a real problem as much as 30% to 50% of the classrooms having different students in them at the end of the year then they do at the beginning which can interrupt the classroom for local resident students while adding additional costs to local education. A less transient population establishes roots in the community that is good for everyone especially for our schools.
By eliminating the property tax for business, small business may be more attracted to locate into the main street and help revive downtown business. They’ll have more money to reinvest in their properties removing some of the issues related to financing those repairs on these properties. The elimination of this tax on the small business allows for expansion which grows competition and this is always healthy for the economy and just good common sense for the consumer. Small Business growth in our downtown areas creates jobs, improves the conditions in our cities and will make our cities more prosperous and attractive places to do business and live.
The more modest Municipal Tax remains on these properties which will still generate local revenue to municipal governments and by shifting the more expensive school tax to Harrisburg which, according to our State Constitution is their responsibility, it will be easier for city residents to meet their tax obligations leading to less delinquent property taxes. Delinquent taxes are commonplace with slum lords who own multiple properties in the cities adding to the expense of collecting the taxes. A more stable environment of home ownership creates roots in a city that can be translated into stability in the city. That stability creates an environment that makes our cities more attractive places to live.
A more stable population of property owners is less likely to see crimes of breaking and entering/theft because property ownership is more likely to generate that spirit of community than a transient population with no real ties to the community.
These are just a few of the benefits concerning a shift away from property taxation to taxes based on income and labor where the consumer has more controls. Sometimes the most common sense approaches to government and taxation are the most difficult to implement. You can make a difference though. Watch the following video and then go to http://www.ptcc.us and become part of the solution to making Pennsylvania a better place to live.