Pattye Benson

Community Matters

PA House Bill 1213 – An answer to ‘Spot Assessments’ or tying the hands of school districts and municipalities? State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) and TE School District take opposing sides

In the last few days, local residents have received notices from the TE School District and State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) with opposing views on PA House Bill 1213.

What is HB 1213 and why does the school district oppose the bill and why does our state representative support it?

In summary, the PA House Bill 1213 would establish that school districts and municipalities may not appeal the assessment of property based on purchase or sale of the property.

When the HB 1213 first surfaced last year, the TE School Board passed a resolution in May 2017 opposing the proposed legislation, believing that it would restrict the District’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals. In its February 2, 2018 newsletter, the District restates its opposition to the bill, stating the following:

HB 1213 is harmful to Pennsylvania schools for a number of reasons:

  • HB 1213 restricts a school district’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals.
  • If commercial or residential properties are permitted to pay taxes below the market assessment, remaining taxpayers will pay higher taxes to maintain school programs.
  • The bill maintains the property owner’s ability to appeal their assessment, setting up an unfair system. To date, TESD has lost property tax revenue in excess of $5 million through taxpayer-initiated appeals.

Over the past four years, TESD has successfully appealed properties that were undervalued based on economic factors using market-based sales data and the courts have agreed. These TESD-initiated property assessment appeals have produced almost $600,000 in new property tax revenue to fund the District’s educational program. Lost revenue opportunities may lead to program cuts for students, increased fees for families, or higher taxes to property owners who already pay their fair share.

As sponsor of PA House Bill 1213, State Rep Kampf has previously stated that, “As the law now stands – without the enactment of House Bill 1213 – some of our state courts have given the 500 school districts and more than 3,000 local townships and municipalities in Pennsylvania the power to pick any single property and appeal its County assessment. As a result, they can (and do) challenge the assessment of a single property and, in the end, they raise taxes on that property owner alone. This is called spot assessment.”

Kampf challenged TESD’s latest newsletter as “misleading and plainly incomplete explanation of the bill” with his release of ‘Setting the Record Straight on House Bill 1213’ to residents yesterday, making the following points:

1/ The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this summer unanimously ruled that school districts were not allowed to target only commercial properties for spot assessing. This means that, if school districts undertake spot assessments, from now on they must do so to every type of property – including homes like yours and mine. Which home is picked is up to your school board to decide. That I know of, T/E has never spot assessed a home, but now—because they apparently have chosen to go forward with the practice—they must by law also target homes.

2/ House Bill 1213, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, would limit spot assessments by school districts to protect all property taxpayers from unfair targeting. Again, a spot assessment is where the school district targets and reassesses only your property, but does not reassess your neighbor’s even though your neighbor’s property is also under-assessed. Quite simply, spot assessment is inherently unfair and could even be maliciously undertaken if a school district chose to do so. The district is under no obligation to reassess all properties in a neighborhood or commercial district. They can simply pick one property and spot assess it alone.

3/ T/E says in its email it opposes HB 1213, which means they are going to start picking some homes for spot assessment. I would venture to say, since Chester County has not had a reassessment since 1997, virtually 80% of our homes are under-assessed, many significantly.

Your school district has decided that it will follow a path resulting in significant increases in valuation and property taxes for only select homeowners; these homeowners could see school property tax increases of 100%, or even 200%.

As we learned in recent arguments in the Supreme Court, it is also clear that very few school districts across the state follow this practice in any way. They either keep costs within the existing tax base, or they raise taxes on all properties, but they do not target individual properties.

Apparently, T/E finds it more important to obtain revenue than it does to protect you. I am further shocked that our school district would say such a practice is acceptable to them given that the amounts the school district admits to raising from this practice in the past equal 1/2 of 1% of their total annual budget.

4/ The school district also made a conscious decision to withhold in its email important information about HB 1213 as it is amended today. Currently, the legislation (at the request of school districts) allows a school district to try to raise the assessed value of a property if the property owner had previously obtained a reduction of that assessed amount by their own appeal. This addresses any issue of fairness.

In closing, Rep Kampf stands behind the PA House Bill 1213, stating that he “cannot sit by and allow school districts to target certain properties and create both a risky atmosphere in which to own a home, and an unpredictable place to make an investment.”

So … As a Pennsylvania resident, do you support or oppose the proposed legislation?

Do you believe that without the enactment of PA House Bill 1213, that (as Pennsylvania residents) we are at risk for “spot assessment” by our school districts and local municipalities?

Or, do you believe that the passage of PA House Bill 1213 would tie the hands of school districts and municipalities to challenge under assessed property taxes, therefore making it more unfair to the average homeowner?

Couldn’t the problem be solved with regularly scheduled property assessments? On a personal note, my husband and I have purchased several investments properties on the South Carolina coast in the last couple of years — in South Carolina, property assessments are routine, every 5 years, eliminating the need for proposed legislation, like PA House Bill 1213.

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  1. I would like to hear more from the school district on which properties it would like to target for more tax revenue.
    The school district has gone after churches, Vanguard and other non-profit properties. If the property had a child care service (producing profit center), the District attempted to squeeze more taxes and apparently failed.
    The District has challenged Jenkins Arboretum and Vanguard won tax revenue.
    Is there a practice District would use to spot assess.
    In real estate transfers of new construction, many new owners challenge their assessment. Will new construction owners who appeal their tax assessment be targeted?
    Will non profit religious centers be challenged? Jenkins Arboretum? Libraries? Government offices?
    Medical Marijuana services? Restaurants?
    School District pease tell us the scope of your resolution?
    There should be a fair method to target all owners property.
    Also are the new construction neighborhoods and hotels helping with tax revenue?

    1. Ah yes — I remembered a budget strategy by the school board that targeted nonprofits from a few years ago. I searched on Community Matters and found this in a post that I wrote in April 2012. This discussion from 5 years ago is very current today —

      An interesting suggested budget strategy that could affect nonprofits with real estate in the school district was discussed. There are over 300 not for profit organizations in the school district with exempt status for property taxes. The value in exempt property assessment in the school district of these nonprofits exceeds $366 million. As a budget strategy, the Finance Committee discussed the possibility of challenging these tax-exempt property owners by requesting payment to the school district in lieu of taxes.

  2. Thank-you Pattye for bringing this issue to the attention of the community. Thank-you state Rep Warren Kampf for creating HB 1213.

    I believe that without the enactment of PA House Bill 1213, that (as Pennsylvania residents) we are at risk for “spot assessment” by our school districts and local municipalities.

    1. Perhaps it might also be about fairness. If there are two properties worth the same amount of money, should one pay significantly more than the other one because it was spot assessed? I am not saying that SB 1213 doesn’t have its issues and there are legitimate concerns about it, but pretending that there is not a legitimate issue with fairness in the current system seems a bit short sighted.

      1. First, school districts don’t “spot assess” they “appeal” assessments. And yes, the wording is important. Under the recent PA Supreme Court ruling, school districts can ONLY appeal IF (a) reasonable and (b) they cannot target a certain classification of property. An appeal is ONLY granted IF the property assessment is below actual market value for the property. So in your comment, if two properties are worth the same, they will pay the same, one cannot be “spot assessed.”

        1. Your comment “if two properties are worth the same, they will pay the same” is not necessarily true. Please see my comment below on Common Level Ratio (CLR).

  3. If you are reading this post, you may think that school boards and townships can only spot assess commercial property owners. But you would be wrong, without HB-1213, municipal governments and school boards in Pennsylvania can target individual homeowners. It may not yet have happened in TESD, but it could! HB-1213 would prevent this from happening.

    1. The practice of spot assessing only commercial properties in the past was found unconstitutional by the PA Supreme Court. TESD followed this unconstitutional commercial only spot assessing in the past and stopped once the PA Supreme Court handed down its ruling. Some other school districts throughout in PA regularly spot assessed both commercial and residential properties.

  4. It’s a shame that the “competing memo” approach to government has trickled down to TE. In this case it seems to me that Rep Kampf’s is the most egregious, suggesting that “Since Chester County has not reassessed since 1997, the vast majority of residential and commercial property is assessed at far below market values”, and that “the district is going to start picking homes for spot assessment”.

    Assessments are related to changes in market value over time by a county-wide “Common Level Ratio”. A new $500,000 house would be multiplied by the CLR 53% to be assessed at $265,000. So of course the assessments are below market value!

    There are problems with the CLR. It seems to have an unduly long lag to market prices and it does not capture different neighborhood pricing trends. Over time some properties become over- or under-assessed relative to their market value.

    There’s a mechanism for addressing this: residents that feel their property is over-assessed (after applying the CLR) can appeal to a county appeals board by providing an appraisal and any other relevant evidence. If you disagree with the conclusion, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. Similarly, a taxing authority has been able to appeal properties that they feel are under-assessed (after applying the CLR). A well-defined legal process, not at all arbitrary.

    (Of course, another approach would be to institute regular assessments, as Pattye notes. Call County Commissioner and Tredyffrin resident Michelle Kichline!)

    So how does our District decide their appeals? In the past they have appealed commercial properties for which the value in a recent sale is far in excess of the value implied by the assessment. This seems fair all around. They consider only those large commercial properties where smart developers have increased the value and for which that increase justifies the legal costs of an appeal. A reasonable person would think that the buyer of a property should be prepared to pay their fair share of taxes based on the price they just paid for that property.

    The PA Supreme Court decision complicates the situation; Rep Kampf suggests that it means that if one assessment is appealed then every other one must be too?? Yet to be resolved is whether the appeal decision criteria used by the district (based really on cost/benefit of the appeal) can continue to be applied. Rather than let that be sorted out in the judicial system, HB1213 seeks to legislate a one-sided solution, where the district can not appeal at all, but residents can continue to do so.

    I’m bewildered why Rep Kampf has taken on a cause that favors corporations at the expense of residents. It doesn’t seems to be a good way to stand up to any “blue wave” that may still be rolling after our last local election.

  5. Why not solve all of this by eliminating property taxes for school funding and using an alternative ,method of funding for schools?

    1. Eliminating property taxes and using income and/or sales taxes would definitely solve all the reassessment issues.

      It would cause two other issues though.

      The first one is that we would lose local control of our taxes and the TE school district would almost certainly lose a very large amount of its current funding compared to our current property tax base as Harrisburg would send more of our money to other parts of the state as they do now. If people are riled up about HB 1213 – which would have a small impact on taxes raised – then they should be almost rioting when discussing this option. This option is actually proposed legislation named SB 76 sponsored by PA Senator Andy Dinniman. So if the Democrats are all worked up about HB 1213, why are they basically silent on SB 76, which would basically destroy the tax base for TESD? The answer is easy – politics. PA Rep Warren Kampf is a Republican while PA Senator Andy Dinniman is a Democrat. So, even though PA Senator Andy Dinniman is proposing legislation that would demolish our tax base and send much larger amounts of our school tax money to other parts of PA, the Democrats are almost silent and Melissa Shusterman has nothing to say about it. I am sad to say that I have seen this behavior over and over.

      The second issue is that this would shift the tax burden from a combination of commercial and residential to 100% residential. Individuals will pay the offset of losing the commercial property taxes with their personal income and sales taxes. The Democrats keep incorrectly saying that HB 1213 is about protecting businesses when it protects both businesses and commercial properties equally. On the other hand, SB 76 would greatly protect businesses at the expense of residents. Why aren’t the Democrats howling about SB 76 and how Senator Andy Dinniman is against our schools? Again, the answer is partisan politics where each party can’t call out their own and can only attack candidates of the other party.

      Wether or not you support SB 76 depends on what you are trying to solve and what you think the biggest issues are. Same can be said for HB 1213. I do think that TESD school property taxes have been rising way too quickly (twice the rate of inflation) for the past decade and therefore options like SB 76 start to look appealing on the surface. However, while I am agnostic about HB 1213, I am opposed to SB 76 due to the direct and forceful negative impact it would have on education in the TESD.

      1. A third issue is that the tax revenue would be unreliable. For instance, in a downturn economy where salaries went down or sales (and therefore sales taxes) went down, then the school district would get less money than anticipated.

        Using property taxes that are not reassessed yearly, the tax base would be much more stable.

        There is a counter argument that if everyone else is having to tighten their belts, then the school districts should also. However, it would impact the education going on in the school districts in a negative way.

  6. This morning I reached out to Melissa Shusterman, the Democrat candidate running against Warren Kampf for the State House 157 seat for comment on HB 1213. I just received an email from Ms. Shusterman, directing me to her Facebook page for her response to the proposed legislation. Here is her statement:

    My opponent, Rep. Warren Kampf, has introduced H.B. 1213, a partisan bill that would limit the ability of school districts to challenge property tax assessments. While this may seem like a good idea on paper, in reality, it really isn’t. This bill would cost Pennsylvania school districts hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Pennsylvania’s school system, one of the most unequal and underfunded in the nation, cannot sustain both this loss of revenue and the cuts in funding Republicans in the legislature keep making. Our children will suffer the most from these drastic cuts in school funding and revenue.

    H.B. 1213 will also harm Pennsylvania families in another way. By removing the ability of school districts to challenge severely under-assessed properties, homeowners and businesses lose the only way school districts can try to make school taxes fairer. Property owners of appropriately-assessed properties will have to deal with increased millage rates to make up for the under-assessed properties.

    Pennsylvania’s schools, families, and businesses deserve better than H.B. 1213. Pennsylvanians deserve schools that are fully and fairly funded. Pennsylvanians deserve a fair property tax system. H.B. 1213 accomplishes neither of these goals. Our representatives in the legislature should be doing all they can to help our education system, not hurt it. I, along with many teachers, parents, school officials, and elected officials across the state, voice my opposition to Warren Kampf’s dangerous H.B. 1213. In the legislature, I won’t just fight against harmful bills like these – I’ll fight for legislation that will allow every Pennsylvania child to get the quality education he or she deserves.

    1. Melissa Shusterman,
      What you state is interesting to read and i understand what you do not want, H.B. 1213. I am uncertain of what is it that you do want: The status quo or H.B. 76 or something else?

      I find it hard to understand how the TESD is not fully and fairly funded. My impression is that the education received by the students is quite good.

      1. Thank you Jim. Yes, I too would like to know if Ms. Shusterman has a solution/suggestion. As I state at the end of my post, the real solution is regular property reassessments every 5 (or 10 years) which is done in many states.

  7. Doug,
    In your example, the spot assessed homeowner may feel it is unfair versus an immediate neighbor with the same market value. However, this would mean that they have been receiving a tax break vs all the neighbors which the new assessment was based on.
    New assessment rates are based on comparable local homes.
    Unfortunately, current assessments do vary in TESD with some lower priced homes actually paying more taxes than higher priced homes. Reassessments should reduce this problem. Homeowners who believe they are overpaying have the right to request a new assessment. Likewise, TESD should be allowed to request under-taxed properties to pay their fair share. Laws may be needed to prevent abuses, not to protect businesses under the guise of protecting homeowners.

    1. Tred, thank you for being the first person to point out the actual problem that is causing the discussion on SB 1213 – lack of general reassessments. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not mandate regular assessments.

      You state that they were receiving a tax break vs all the neighbors. I was actually saying the opposite with my comment. If you only reassess one property in a neighborhood where all the properties were the same assessment, only that one property will pay the higher taxes now.

      The current issue is that the school district will say that the property was under assessed. This is a true statement – it was under-assessed as shown by the selling price. However, the whole neighborhood was under-assessed. However, you are only raised the assessment for the one property instead of the who neighborhood. That is the unfair part. Similar properties should pay similar property taxes. Spot assessments of single properties distorts that.

      As I stated to Ray, SB 1213 was written to protect homeowners as much as commercial property owners. There were many school boards that were doing spot assessments on residential as well as commercial properties. As far as protecting businesses, that was the PA Supreme Court – currently made up of 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans.

  8. Ray, SB 1213 isn’t about favoring corporations at the expense of residents. That is a completely false narrative. The PA Supreme Court (with 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans) “favored” corporations when they ruled that the practice of only reassessing commercial properties was unconstitutional. While you might think that unconstitutional practice that TESD was following was reasonable, the PA Supreme Court disagrees with you.

    So, if SB 1213 is not about favoring corporations, what is it about?

    Well, many school districts in PA didn’t just reassess commercial properties when they were sold, they reassessed all properties, including residential, when they were sold.

    This led to situations where one house on a block was paying much higher taxes than one right next to it – even if they were an almost exact copy of each other.

    That is what SB 1213 is trying to address – people who own like properties paying very different amounts of taxes due to the spot assessments.

    That is not how our property tax system is supposed to work. By definition, property taxes are supposed to be paid with everyone paying their percentage of value of their property in relation to the total property value in that taxing jurisdiction. Spot assessments can distort that – they can also theoretically correct current imperfections. However, I know of no school district is really trying to do that. Otherwise, they would reassess an entire neighborhood of like houses when one sells for much more than the assessment applied to the CLR. I don’t think that would be a very popular policy.

    That is what SB 1213 is trying to address – the unfair taxation of one property in regards to comparable properties.

    As for the completely one sided aspect, I agree that the original language of SB 1213 was one sided. Warren recently stated that SB 1213 was amended to allow appeals against properties who did their own appeal in the past. Therefore, if someone appealed and got their assessment reduced and then it was shown to be not accurate in the future (similar properties sold or that property sold for much more for instance), then the taxing authority (eg school district) could appeal that assessment. I have asked for the amended language.

    As for Common Level Ratio (CLR), that is not the magic solution as stated above. That is a much longer discussion, so I will create a new separate post for that one.

    I am not arguing that SB 1213 is the right solution. I am stating however that the (until very recently) current system used by TESD was unfair in a constitutional way. If you disagree with that, then your argument is with the PA Supreme Court.

  9. Support Andy Dinniman and SB 76.

    The property tax can no longer sustain the cost of education. Property tax reform must finally be accomplished. That is why he is a supporter and co-sponsor of SB 76, to eliminate the property tax. He also voted for it when the bill was narrowly (by one vote) defeated in the Senate.

    1. I also believe that we need property tax reform. I just happen to believe that SB 76 is not the solution as it will inflict massive pain on the higher end school districts such as TESD as our current tax money will not stay local and be moved to other parts of the state and could not be replaced locally.

      Anyone who is howling about what HB 1213 would do to TESD while ignoring SB 76 is either highly partisan or ignorant of the two bills.

      Also, just to note, SB 76 would not reduce your total taxes by the amount of your property taxes as your sales and income taxes would rise to replace those property taxes (with more of it being given to other parts of PA). It would, however, drastically shift the burden of taxes away from commercial and onto residents.

  10. I wanted to address the topic of Common Level Ratio (CLR) and why it does not fix the issue of the lack of doing reassessments. The idea of CLR is that over time, the CLR would fix the problem of rising property values even though the assessment remains the same.

    Let’s take an example. You have a house that is worth $200,000 when it is assessed. If the house is worth $400,000 ten years later and no reassessments are done, then the assessment is still $200,000 and your CLR should be 0.50 ($200,000 /$ 400,000). In this way, you should be able to divide your out of date assessment by the CLR to get the current value. If this example $200,000 / 0.50 = $400,000.

    This is great in theory, however, does not work as well in practice due to the fact you only have one CLR across the entire county even though houses don’t all go up or down in value by the same percentage over time.

    I will give two extremely over simplistic examples to give an idea on why CLR can become extremely unreliable over time. For both examples, we will assume a county that has four houses with two smaller houses each worth $100,000 and two larger ones worth $300,000 at the beginning and that no reassessment is done for a decade. The initial tax base is $800,000 ($100,000 x 2 + $300,000 x 2).

    In example A we will see how which properties sell can warp the county CLR. Let’s say that over a decade, the smaller houses are now worth $200,000 and the larger houses are now worth $400,000. As you can see, there is no good CLR for all houses as the CLR is $100,000 / $200,000 = 0.50 for the smaller houses and $300,000 / $400,000 = 0.75 for the larger houses. According to the county, the CLR is $800,000 / $1,200,000 = 0.67.

    Now, let’s assume that one of the smaller houses sells for $200,000 (what it is currently worth). The school district sees this house sold for $200,000. According to the county CLR, it should be assessed $200,000 * 0.67 = $134,000. However, it is still only assessed the original $100,000. Therefore they go to court and get the assessment raised to $134,000 because the CLR “proves” that it should be assessed as such even though an accurate CLR – for that property – would be 0.50 and therefore it should be still be assessed $200,000 * 0.50 = $100,000.

    This now means two things that are unfair. 1) The person buying the house is now paying 34% more in taxes than the person living in the other small house even though they are the same value and 2) The person buying the house is paying a larger share of the total property tax base because the CLR of 0.67 is 34% higher than the real CLR for properties of his size, but the larger houses are pulling the effective CLR higher.

    In example B we will see how location can warp CLR. Let’s assume that one small house and one large house are in West Chester and one small house and one large house are in Wayne. For whatever reason, West Chester becomes really hot property and everyone wants to live there. Because of this, the small house in West Chester is now worth $300,000 and the large house in West Chester is now worth $500,000 over a decade while the same houses in Wayne are now only worth $200,000 and $400,000 respectively.

    The county CLR used for taxes in this case is now $800,000 / $1,400,000 = 0.57 county wide. However, the West Chester CLR is actually $400,000 / $800,00 = 0.50 while the Wayne CLR is actually $400,000 / $600,000 = 0.67.

    Someone buys the smaller house in Wayne for $200,000. The school district sees this and computes that the assessment should be $200,000 * 0.57 = $114,000 and gets the assessment changed to that value.

    This now means two things that are unfair. 1) The person buying the house in Wayne is now paying 14% more than the person living in West Chester even though their house is actually worth less. 2) The person buying the house is paying a larger share of the total property tax base because the CLR of 0.57 is 34% higher than the real CLR for properties in Wayne, but the West Chester houses are pulling the effective CLR higher.

    Examples A and B above should be enough to show that CLR is not a magic bullet and in fact causes real issues of fairness. Fundamentally, this is because houses don’t all move up and down together by the same percentage across Chester County.

    Therefore, it is accurate to say that many houses are under assed and many houses are over assessed in Chester County at this moment in time. The longer we go without a new assessment, the worse the CLR will be in distorting the fairness of property taxes.

    This is why SB 1213 does in fact try to stop unfairness like the ones above where because of perversions in the CLR, people could be over assessed even based on the recent sales price. This is not a simple discussion of being for business or against school districts. This is a fundamental issue of fairness. If there wasn’t an election going on, perhaps we could even have an intelligent conversation about the merits of SB 1213. I don’t think that has any chance of happening in this political environment.

  11. Tax increases do not go to allow every PA child to get the quality education he or she deserves as Ms. Shusterman states. Tax increases go to line the pockets of the teachers unions and that’s who Ms. Shusterman is fighting for – not the children in this state.

  12. Time for my TL;DR analysis:

    1. The PA Supreme Court (prior to last election) ruled that taxing jurisdictions can not appeal the assessment of just one class of property
    2. TESD is working to develop universal criteria such that the benefits from an appeal would outweigh its costs; only the most expensive and under-assessed residential properties would likely meet these criteria – and then, only upon their sale.
    3. In the meantime HB1213 seeks to pre-empt this right to appeal (except in narrow circumstances) and allow only appeals from taxpayers. This seems hardly a fair situation. Also, the average taxpayer would have to make up the under-payment of a few large property owners.
    4. The assessed value depends a lot on the county wide CLR, which over decades becomes an imperfect tool for assessing all properties in the county on the same basis. It’s time for a county-wide reassessment.
    5. Rep Kampf issued a fear-mongering, context-free memo that is misleading (and has mislead many people I know) into believing that their property would be subject to capricious re-assessment by the school district. This is Fake News.

    1. I take issue with point #5 as it is not fairly applied to both candidates. I would agree that Warren’s memo was crafted in a political manner. However, you should then show that same hostility to Melissa Shusterman’s response which had roughly the same amount of fear-monering and context-free and/or misleading content in it. They are politicians. They are going to craft political messages.

      I would like to see Melissa Shusterman actually come up with a counter proposal to help solve the fairness issue and/or the issue of the assessments being so out of touch with reality due to not having a re-assessment done for 20 years instead of just going on the attack. It is easy to attack. I would like to see proposed solutions.

  13. Ray, I love your brilliance and community activism.

    After some legal research on recent cases and precedent cases in our backyard (Valley Forge Towers), I believe giving unfettered power to the school board to “spot assess” needs specific limits and criteria on which properties can be assessed by School Districts.

    Of course, I agree with The Honorable Warren Kampf and his support of our schools. As an experienced lawyer and successful legislator he does not use so called fake news. Warren is a strong fair minded community advocate and lawyer who understands the complexities of the tax assessment issue. He listens and foresees intended and unintended consequences. He is experienced in the intricacy of the law, the PA Constitution and how the House works.

    I served on the TE School Board and understand the need for a free education for all. I wholly support all students with a warm spot in my heart for those children who are special gifts to our community.

    I understand the growing numbers of children who come to our District for an excellent education. However, I don’t agree with “unfettered power” by the District to appeal taxpayers appeals. If this power is given without specific criteria on which properties can be appealed, it will result in more lawsuits, discrimination and more District legal bills. Obviously, the Valley Forge Towers case brought to light that the Upper Merion School District could not discriminate by targeting large apartment complexes only.

    Leaving a loophole without certainty will cause discrimination under the Pennsylvania Constitution. This is not fake news. This is THE LAW. Read the cases. Read the Constitution and let’s discuss objective ideas to work together in a non partisan manner.

    The community needs to think fairly to all property owners with a priority on educating and loving the kids!

  14. Give me a break!!! You give a governmental organization the ability to crank up taxes at their will and that’s exactly what they’ll do.
    TE School District has regularly raised taxes every year. I know, I have lived within the district for 38 years. As I understand it, they have a $30 megabuck surplus now. How much more do they need.

  15. I was not familiar with this issue until I read Pattye’s post. In an attempt to gain a better understanding, I read House Bill 1213 and the Supreme Court’s opinion in Valley Forge Towers which, I understand, was the impetus for the bill. That exercise left me with the following question (bear with me please while I work my way up to it):

    In footnote 19 of its opinion, the Valley Forge Towers Court summarized the earlier case In re Springfield Sch. Dist. as follows:

    “In Springfield the school district only appealed properties for which a recent sales price was at least $500,000 greater than its implied market value, defined as the assessed value divided by the CLR. Thus, with a CLR of, say, 83%, a parcel assessed at $1,000,000 would have an implied market value of $1,204,819 ($1,000,000 divided by 0.83). The school district would appeal the $1,000,000 assessment if the property had recently sold for at least $1,704,819 – the implied market value plus $500,000.”

    The Valley Forge Towers Court went on to say:

    “We pause at this juncture to clarify that nothing in this opinion should be construed as suggesting that the use of a monetary threshold – such as the one challenged in Springfield – or some other selection criteria would violate uniformity if it were implemented without regard to the type of property in question or the residency status of its owner. Such methodologies are not presently before the Court.”

    In other words, the Valley Forge Towers Court left open the possibility that the Springfield methodology might be an acceptable way for a school district to conduct assessment appeals (and, indeed, the Commonwealth Court in Springfield rejected a taxpayer’s challenge to the methodology).

    If I am reading it correctly, House Bill 1213 would bar school districts from using the Springfield methodology. The Bill, if enacted, would prohibit a school district from “appeal[ing] the assessment of property based on . . . purchase or sale of the property.” [Proposed section 8855(b)(1)(i)]. That is exactly what the Springfield methodology does — bases assessment appeals on large disparities in implied market values when properties are sold.

    So, for those of you who have had the patience to stick with me up to this point (thank you), we get to my question: Did the drafters of House Bill 1213 intend to prevent school districts from using the Springfield “monetary threshold” methodology and others like it, or is that just an unintended consequence of a bill that only was designed to prevent “spot assessments” of residential properties? Put differently, it seems that Bill 1213 not only would prohibit “spot assessments” of residential properties, but also would take away from school districts the ability to use many other assessment appeal methodologies that might pass Constitutional muster.

    In sum, Bill 1213 appears to have a very broad reach — beyond just preventing “spot assessments” of residential properties. I do not know enough about the issue to have an informed opinion as to whether this broad scope is a positive or negative feature of the bill. But it seems like the focus on “spot assessments” of residential properties ignores the broader impact of the bill.

  16. Fairness will only be achieved through the elimination of the property tax. Contact your legislators and support this bill.

    “The foremost concern I hear from my constituents is property taxes are too high. I am and I have been dedicated to doing something about it,” Dinniman said. “The property tax disproportionally impacts our senior citizens and those on fixed incomes. It is the only tax that can leave you homeless. And that is not right. That just doesn’t align with Chester County values.”

  17. I was surprised to see Sen. Dinniman is a sponsor of SB76. Why would a Democrat and a supposed supporter of education support total state funding and therefore control of education. I may disagree with my local school directors on many issues, but I trust them more than state legislators who brought us the PSERS mess and can’t balance a budget on time.

  18. Eliminate the property tax and replace it with what tax? The money to fund the schools has to come from someone!

    Mr . Dinniman supports SB76 which includes a 60%+ increase in the PA income tax (from 3.07% to 4.95%) and a large increase in the sales tax – the rate would increase from 6% to 7% and many exempt items would become taxable (food, clothing, medical, services). This change would fall squarely on working people and those raising families. Current seniors were happy with a combination of taxes when they were raising kids, sending them to our schools, buying a lot of stuff with a lower sales tax, paying a relatively modest income tax on their earnings, and all property owners were footing the bill for their kids’ education. NOW, they want to shift the balance in their favor by eliminating there property tax.

    This is wrong. Mr. Dinniman is bowing to seniors cause they turn out at the polls. I am near retirement and my children have been out of our schools for almost 10 years. Before my kids started in school, I paid school property tax and got no “benefit”. When mine were in school., I paid my school property, and they got a fine education. Now, I happily pay my school property tax which supports the kids there now and the excellent school system that is a big asset to this community as it attracts families that highly value education.

    Btw, SB 76 would not fully eliminate the school property tax and County and Township property taxes would continue, as is.

  19. The “it” is House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76, legislation Baldinger frequently refers to as “our bill” and for which he takes personal credit for co-authoring. It’s a sweeping proposal that would eliminate more than $14 billion in school property taxes, replacing that revenue by increasing the state income tax to 4.95 percent and the state sales tax to 7 percent – 61 percent and 17 percent increases, respectively.

    To hear Baldinger tell it, the shift will transform Pennsylvania into an economic Xanadu, reversing years of population decline and job losses in many parts of the state, while unburdening homeowners buffeted by constant property tax increases. The state will actually collect more tax revenue in the long run, tax abolitionists like Baldinger say, by abandoning a system he describes as antiquated and regressive.

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