Potter County is hosting a daylong workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 28, for the State Land Tax Fairness Coalition. About 50 attendees are expected. They include commissioners, chief assessors and GIS professionals from across the state, as well as representatives from local governments, school districts and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP). The group will be continuing to develop political strategies and exhibits, using GIS technology, maps, statistical charts and analysis, in support of two proposed state laws:
- An increase in the in-lieu-of-taxes payments on state-owned land for each of the three taxing bodies (school districts, counties and municipalities).
- A sharing of the revenue the state derives from future gas/oil leases and timber sales on state forest land with the same three taxing bodies.
Rural counties find themselves stressed by the high proportion of real estate that is owned by the Commonwealth and is thus tax-exempt. The relatively few property owners who remain responsible for paying real estate taxes at the full market value of their homes and acreage are facing an unprecedented burden that is clearly disproportional and unfair.
Earlier this year, the Potter County Board of Commissioners spearheaded formation of a statewide State Land Tax Fairness Coalition in support of the two tax relief measures. The coalition has since garnered support from more than two dozen counties, as well as influential organizations such as CCAP, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State School Boards Association
Potter, Cameron and Clinton counties are being held up as examples of the inequities. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is by far the largest landowner in Potter County; of the county’s total acreage (691,985), some 291,128 acres, or 42 percent, is state-owned and thus tax-exempt. All told, when other government property, churches and other tax-exempts, as well as “Clean and Green” preferentially assessed properties, are added to the equation, just 15 percent of the total real estate in Potter County is subject to taxation at its market value.
By law, school districts, municipalities and the county government itself depend on the real estate tax for the bulk of their operating revenue. With that tax base being so severely restricted, private property owners face an overwhelming and unfair burden.
(Above: A map created by the Potter County GIS Department and Assessment Office will be a focal point during Tuesday’s workshop. The only real estate that is taxed at its market value is in white. Parcels in green and orange are state-owned and, thus, tax-exempt).