Voters on Tuesday will see a ballot question that will involve the important issue of property taxes.
The referendum will be for voters across the state and will ask whether the legislature should be able to allow local taxing bodies, such as a county, municipality or school district, to exclude homeowners from property taxes.
Below is the question as it will appear on the ballot:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?
Currently, Pennsylvania law allows taxing bodies to offer a homestead tax exclusion that discounts taxes up to 50 percent but does not eliminate them.
If the referendum passes Tuesday, state legislators would still have to put together amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution before any property tax relief could happen.
In a state with one of the highest property tax rates in the country, an exemption from property taxes might be a bright spot for taxpayers, but lawmakers would somehow have to fill the massive revenue gap that would spring up. In the past, increases on income and sales taxes have been talked about along with a use tax.
The referendum does not address how lost revenues would be made up.
Over the past several years, some lawmakers have proposed bills that would eliminate school property taxes on residences and commercial properties and replace them with other taxes to replace the lost funds. The most current version is Senate Bill 76, which has yet to come up for a full vote.
“Voting down this amendment will likely destroy our chances of school property tax elimination for the foreseeable future,” the website for Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition states. The group has pushed legislation that eliminates property taxes.
The Reading Eagle newspaper said the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has not taken a position on the referendum.
On the other hand, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has a position on Senate Bill 76.
“Calling it a tax elimination bill is inaccurate,” spokesman Steven Robinson told the newspaper. “It is really a tax shift to the personal income tax and sales tax.”
The property tax referendum is the only ballot question aside from judicial retention that voters will decide on Tuesday.