Seniors have Golden Opportunity to reduce tax burden

June 22, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Real estate taxes are once again going up in the Chambersburg Area School District, but low-income or disabled property owners now have Golden Opportunities to reduce those taxes by several hundred dollars.

Golden Opportunities is the Volunteer Tax Reduction Program for People With Low Incomes approved by the Chambersburg School Board last week.

Homeowners with incomes of less than $20,000 can volunteer for the school district in exchange for having their property taxes reduced by up to $500, or up to $750 for a couple living in the same household.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Eric Michael said participants will be compensated at the federal minimum wage, getting credit toward their tax bills of $5.15 for every hour they volunteer. Any real estate tax credits earned during the 2006-07 school year would be applied to 2007-08 taxes, he said.


Brochures and applications for the program are available at the district's Administration Building, 435 Stanley Ave., Michael said.

The pilot program is budgeted for $10,000 in its first year, said Michael. The district also is looking for someone to serve as a coordinator, arranging where and when volunteers can serve the district. That person could earn up to $750 in tax credits, he said.

Michael said the program is similar to a number of others in school districts around the state.

The brochure for the program lists mentors, classroom and libraries aides, tutors, ticket takers, special-events ushers, bus monitors, crossing guards, parking lot attendants and guest readers or speakers among the jobs volunteers could perform to earn credit. Maintenance services such as painting, mowing and furniture repair also are listed.

If there are more applicants than positions available, the superintendent would choose from the pool of eligible applicants by lottery, according to the guidelines.

Applicants would have to pass criminal background checks and show results of a tuberculin test taken within the past year, according to the guidelines. The applicants would be responsible for the costs of background checks and tests, the guidelines note.

Chambersburg Area Taxpayers Association President Allen Piper told the board that senior citizens could just as well get jobs to earn extra money and criticized the board for not opting into Act 72, a property tax reform law passed in 2004. Piper said an earlier tax reform law, Act 50, could have allowed the property taxes of senior citizens to be frozen and that money owed for future tax increases be recouped when the homes were sold.

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