Editor:In the race for State Representative, the number one issue is the property tax crisis facing homeowners in our community. I want you to know where I stand on this issue so you can make an informed choice on November 4.
The property tax crisis needs to be addressed on a both a state level and a local level. First, the state legislature needs to address the property tax situation as a top priority. One solution is House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act, which would completely eliminate school property taxes for all homeowners across the state of Pennsylvania. I will vote for this legislation. This is a key difference between me and my opponent, Mr. Houghton, who has waffled on this issue and made no commitment to vote for the bill.
If House Bill 1275 does not pass in the state legislature, I will work with other representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, to develop legislation that will pass. My specific proposal is to create a substantial homestead exemption of $250,000 or $300,000. If your home is assessed below this amount, you would pay nothing in property taxes. Houses assessed at a higher value would pay taxes only on the assessed value that exceeds the exemption amount. My plan would also require taxpayers to approve any substantial planned increase in school taxes via a district-wide voter referendum. This important measure gives the taxpayer a real voice on new spending.
On a local level, we need to encourage smart commercial and light industrial growth in our town centers. Not only would this bring badly needed jobs to our area, it would expand the local tax base with increased tax ratables. In other words, the school taxes paid by these businesses would offset the school taxes you pay on your home. This is a proven solution that works - Avon Grove School District has not seen a property tax increase in a number of years, even though expenses have increased. The additional funding for the school district has come largely from the successful new commercial infrastructure in Penn Township, including the Giant grocery store. Smart, intelligent growth like this provides the community with valuable services, good paying jobs, and a stable tax base that we desperately need.
My opponent repeatedly states that he will reduce property taxes by preserving open space and saving farmland. I strongly support open space preservation, and I agree with my opponent that these steps are part of the solution, but they cannot be the only solution. We need to look no further than the Octorara School District - this district is almost entirely farmland, but the district has the highest tax rates in our area. People in Octorara School District are really hurting from outrageously high property taxes. We need to revitalize the boroughs of Atglen and Parkesburg, bringing in small businesses and light industrial jobs to expand the tax base and decrease residential property taxes. This is the long term solution, and I will work very hard with local officials to make it happen.
There are a number of other measures that can be implemented to reduce property taxes. As one example, school districts in our area need to pay the prevailing union wage for any construction work done on school buildings. This rate is based on wages paid for union labor in Philadelphia. I believe the prevailing wage statute should be abolished - we cannot afford this added burden. This one step would save millions of dollars in construction costs for our local schools.
The property tax crisis facing Pennsylvania is an issue that I will work on every single day as your State Representative. I cannot promise a fix overnight, but I can promise that I will fight hard for the taxpayers of this district. I would appreciate your support and your vote for me, John Lawrence, on November 4.
John Lawrence Republican nominee for