Friday, September 30, 2005

My call-in to Pippy on KDKA-radio about the 5% windfall shrink to 0%

The South Hills' John Pippy, R, was on KDKA radio talking about the plan in Harrisburg that NUKES the provision that allows for a 5-percent windfall for taxing bodies as a result of new property assessments. Presently, a community with a new assessment can get up to a five-percent bump in gross tax incomes. So, for exmaple, the Penn Hills School District, which is part of Allgheny County, would have all of its properties with new assessment figures because the county did a re-assessment. The old values of the properties would up up to X. Then the new values of the properties would up up to Y. The law has said that Y can be up to 5% greater than X.

In essence, the present law kept the total municipal property gross close to zero, with a little wiggle room, i.e., the 5% fudge factor.

Some argue that the municipality can "raise taxes" by five percent without voting on a tax hike. Rather, the taxes were raised under the cover of the reassesement's new figures.

The controller's office, once held by Dan Onorato, needed to crunch the numbers and then could have taken a case to the courts fighting local school districts or boroughs who set the taxing levels too high so that the 5% limit was over-stepped.

The tax rates and the math that is matched with the new property values isn't "rocket science." However, the numbers are not simple and transparent for citizens nor elected officials as the benchmark is found within the sum of all municipality's properties.

Furthermore, the new assessment numbers are often in a state of flux. High percentage of people apply for appeals. So, the sum of the assessments is a moving target. Estimates are necessary within the process. Additionally, the county executive often makes blankt-changes to the forumlas and jacks around with the outcomes.

In a perfect, ideal world, no tax increases should occur without a vote for the tax increases. So, a zero windfall makes sense. But, we don't live in an ideal world.

Plus, this won't be enforced. It is a joke. It is a ploy. The legisilation is lame and feel good from Harrisburg represenatives --as usual. The new law doesn't get to the roots of the problem.

There have been many municipalities that have broken the existing five-percent windfall rule and NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE. If the law gets broken and nothing happens with its enforcement -- then the law isn't worthy.

Another serious issue that was downplayed on the radio by Pippy, as a result of my on-air question, goes to 'new development.' Pippy said that this is not a big deal and he's wrong. Statewide, he is very wrong.

For example, there are many rural communities that are turning farmlands into new suburban housing. A township can see a new development with 600 or 6,000 new homes and need to take that into account when making the tax incomes match the citizen services. A community might need new police, new road crews, new garbage pick-up crews and streetlights -- because of new developments. So, the new law puts the township supervisors in a pickle.

What if Homestead, the site of the Waterfront Mall, had to keep its total tax incomes at zero -- the year that the Mall opened. Do police not cruise the mall and just go to those who paid the same from last year?

The new law needs to make some allowances for new growth and new tax incomes that were not there the past year -- and not have that included to the zero windfall benchmark.


The PA zero windfall proposal is a lot like zero tolerance in schools as well. A first grade kid that wears a Pirate costume to school for Halloween shouldn't be suspended for two weeks because of his sword and the zero weapon rule that ties the hands of administrators and teachers.

If Pippy wanted to do a better job -- put out the numbers from past tax increases from past assessments on a district by district basis. Then, go after the entities that took more than a 5-percent windfall. Pippy and others should enforce the existing law before they go ahead and create a new law.

If Pippy wanted to do a better job -- talk about and study, as well as enact, a different type of law that applies to an individuals tax situation that hits with new assessment figures. We need each household to add the numbers together and fight the good fight with tools that impact families -- NOT GROSS MUNICIPAL INCOMES.

Assessment buffering is needed. If we had assessment buffering -- we'd not need any ZERO WINDFALL LAW. And, assessment buffering, a point that I campaigned upon in my race for State Senate in 2005, makes a perfect solution for every tax payer throughout the state.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lance: To Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, et al. It can't give taxpayers reassurance when the county's chief assessment officer, Deborah Bunn, says there's no way now to see if the new property assessments are fair. Thus, taxing fairness is not the responsibility of the government. It's the responsibility of the homeowner to appeal if he is treated badly by the folks taking his money.