Department of Education fails to make school property tax elimination a priority


HARRISBURG – During today’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Secretary Rivera stated that school property tax elimination is not a main priority for the department according to Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Argall, who has spearheaded this bipartisan initiative over the past several legislative sessions in the Senate, noted his disappointment regarding both the department and the Wolf Administration’s unwillingness to make this a priority.  “This is by far the #1 issue I hear about most from residents not only in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, but across Pennsylvania,” said Argall.  “I can’t go to the grocery store or get a flat tire repaired without someone asking me the status of our school property tax elimination efforts.”

During the budget hearing, Argall asked Secretary Rivera whether the governor has plans to provide any new alternatives to school property tax elimination efforts or help proponents in the Senate obtain enough votes to move forward with this initiative.  Secretary Rivera declined to speak on behalf of the governor.

This past November, the governor opposed a constitutional amendment that Pennsylvania voters approved by a vote of 54 percent to 46 percent to permit the General Assembly, for the first time ever, to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion up to 100 percent.  Argall mentioned that this referendum provides several more options in the Senate to move school property tax elimination forward that they did not possess before the election.  In November 2015, the lieutenant governor cast the 24-24 tie-breaking vote against a measure to eliminate the school property tax.

“We desperately need to find a solution that will better fund our public schools, rather than continue to use this archaic system that dates back to the 1700s,” stated Argall.  “I am very disappointed that the governor made no mention of property taxes in his state budget address, nor did the Secretary of Education in nine pages of testimony today.”