The House Majority Policy Committee gathered at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center yesterday for a public hearing on the pros and cons of the current legislation proposed to eliminate school property taxes.
Or, at least, that’s what they were supposed to do.
But instead, the three hour long hearing organized by 101st District Representative Frank Ryan quickly turned into a symposium against Pennsylvania’s current method of taxing real estate in order to fund public schools.
Among the experts testifying was Dr. Andrew Armagost of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, PASBO. He said the commonwealth’s 50-year reliance on property taxes to fund schools has become too burdensome for homeowners:
There was no disagreement, given that in 1993, over 50 percent of school funding came from the state and 39 percent from homeowners, whereas today, 60 percent comes from homeowners and only 40 percent from the state.
By the end of the hearing, 102nd District Representative Russ Diamond had pretty much summed up what all the testifiers said:
Diamond has introduced House Bill 302, a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would set a date, certain for the general assembly to pass a new method of funding the state’s schools.
Additional thoughts from the hearing came from the organizer of the hearing, 101st District State Representative Frank Ryan, widely considered an expert on all the in’s and out’s of property tax reform.
He testified that Pennsylvania no longer has the luxury to spend several more years trying to find an alternative to the current property tax method:
Ryan, a certified public accountant and bankruptcy turnaround specialist, said he’s never seen a tax as egregious as Pennsylvania’s property tax. He warned that most Pennsylvanians are but one life event away from losing their homes for failure to pay their school property taxes.