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Coy, Sheffield face off in Nov. 5 election

October 25, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The two candidates for Pennsylvania's 89th District House of Representatives seat agree changes are needed in the way the state levies school property taxes.

Democratic incumbent Jeffrey Coy and Republican challenger Chris Sheffield, who are facing off in the Nov. 5 election, have different plans to change how property taxes are structured and, in turn, how schools are funded.

"I want to lower property taxes for the average homeowner, especially for senior citizens in Pennsylvania," Coy said.

He said he wants to do that without raising other taxes and would redirect state resources so more state tax dollars would go to the local school districts. Districts would be required to lower property taxes accordingly.

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"I voted against this year's state budget because it did not have enough dollars for local public education," said Coy, of Shippensburg, Pa.

Sheffield calls for a total reform of the property tax structure, eliminating it on personal homes.

"The tax disproportionately takes money from senior citizens who can least afford it," he said.

He said his plan is to cap taxes on non-personal homes and all other real estate. He said the shortfall would be made up in part from a three-fourths of a percent increase in the income tax and by cutting spending and dedicating 1 percent of the sales and use tax to education or by increasing the sales tax 1 percent.

"It is a wonderful plan because that way not any one segment of the population is paying it," he said. "If everyone pays a little bit, homeowners won't have to pay a lot."

Property owners pay millage rates varying between districts. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.

Coy, who is running for his 11th term, also said bringing jobs to the area and improving the quality of public education are top priorities.

"We need to increase computer literacy in public schools and reduce class size. When classes are too big, teachers are less effective because they have less time with individual students," Coy said.

He added that the state needs to work on funding all-day kindergarten statewide.

Coy said even after 20 years in office, the job brings new challenges every day.

"I still think that I represent the best interests of the people of the 89th District. I gather since I've been re-elected 10 times, they agree," he said.

Sheffield, a Shippensburg resident with a law practice in Chambersburg, said he thinks it's time for a change.

"There is no doubt that 20 years sitting in one office is long enough. I think people are ready for a positive change," he said.

He said he does not believe legislators should have the right to vote themselves pay and pension increases. A representative's salary is $63,629 a year.

"I will never vote myself a pay or pension increase. People have to decide those issues, not politicians," Sheffield said.

Sheffield also said this week he planned to sign a taxpayer pledge promising to oppose all efforts to increase taxes.

If elected, he said, he would close his law practice to devote himself to public office.

The 89th District includes boroughs of Chambersburg, Orrstown and Shippensburg and the townships of Greene, Letterkenny, Lurgan, Southampton and parts of Guilford in Franklin County. The district also includes part of Cumberland County.

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