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Many homestead applications not returned in Franklin County

November 10, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Approximately two-thirds of the 52,400 homestead and farmstead applications sent to property owners in Franklin County last month have yet to be returned, according to Tax Services Director Dennis O'Toole.

The applications were sent out Oct. 18 to property owners to determine if their homes or farms qualified for school property tax relief under tax reform legislation passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly last summer. Property owners who do not return their applications in the next few weeks will receive another mailing in late December, said Chief Assessor Gary Martin.

O'Toole said Monday that about 15,000 applications were returned, but not everyone wants the exemption that could lower their property taxes in the future.

"We had a few replies that people were not interested in having gambling money fund education," he said.

As part of the tax reform package, the state legalized slot machine gambling, with part of the proceeds earmarked for reducing property taxes.

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The six school districts are paying the cost of the first application mailing, which Martin estimated at about $25,000. The districts also will have to pay the cost of the second mailing to property owners who did not respond to the first.

The tax reform legislation calls for counties to be reimbursed for their costs for mailing out notifications that the exemptions have been approved or denied, Martin said. Franklin County's cost is 44.2 cents per letter and is being handled by a bulk mailing company, Martin said.

Martin said the reimbursement might be months or years in coming, depending on how much revenue slot machines generate.

Homeowners and farmers have until March 1, 2005, to return their applications to the county tax office, Martin said.

Chambersburg Area School District Business Manager Rick Vensel said last month that all eligible property owners should fill out the applications. Only those who complete and return the applications will benefit from tax reduction on their homes or farms, he said.

Actual tax relief might not occur for two or three years, depending on slot machine revenues, Vensel said last month.

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