Pennsylvania lawmakers pitch plan to eliminate school taxes

Author: , Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published: Oct 24 2013 05:02:28 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 25 2013 07:23:45 AM EDT

Think your property taxes are too high? So do state lawmakers. 

Several of them traveled to Carbon County on Thursday to pitch a plan to get rid of local school taxes altogether, but not everyone's on board with the idea.

They're trying to help homeowners like Melanie Kistler-Pete.

"We moved up here about 13 years ago," she said.  "We wanted to get out of the city."

Kistler-Pete lives in a four-bedroom home in the hills above Jim Thorpe.

"We found this place, and it was ideal for us," she said.

But her little slice of heaven is getting more expensive, thanks to rising school taxes.

"We need comprehensive property tax reform," said Pa. Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh Valley/Monroe County.

Boscola and other state lawmakers traveled to Lehighton to push the "Property Tax Indepedence Act."  The bill would get rid of all local school taxes. 

Instead, you would pay one percent more in sales taxes statewide. Workers' wage taxes would also increase.

"With sales tax, you get all those people that are coming in from outside of the state when they come in and they buy things," said Boscola. "So the pool of people paying into the system gets bigger."

Boscola pointed out that right now, renters and tourists pay nothing for schools.

The bill guarantees school districts the same amount of money they're collecting now -- with room for modest increases, but school leaders worry how the state will divvy-up the money.

"The issue is going to be, who do we go to next?", said Rocky Ahner, head of the Lehighton Area School Board.  "If they have it in these different bills that you can go to occupational tax or what can you go to?  A business tax?"

Kistler-Pete has already seen friends leave the state. She might be next.

"I truly love Pennsylvania. I do. I was born and raised here," she said.  "But we will have to leave."

There are actually 26 different property tax bills in Harrisburg this year.  As for the "Property Tax Independence Act," Boscola said she is close to getting enough votes to pass it this year. But the state House wants to let school districts opt-out of the program.