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Some Pa. taxpayers missing out on break

July 12, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Act 1 homestead and farmstead exclusions will come to about $399 for qualified property owners in the Chambersburg Area School District, although fewer than half are participating, according to a school district official.

Only a handful of the 501 school districts in Pennsylvania approved a May 15 referendum shifting part of the local tax burden from real estate to earned income taxes. Chambersburg was the only district to do so in Franklin County.

The referendum vote changed the school district earned income tax from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent. In exchange for more money being taken out of district residents' paychecks, those with homestead and farmstead exclusions will have the $399 taken off their property tax bills, said Assistant Business Manager Marvin Rife.

Rife said 28,000 or more residential properties in the district could have qualified, but only about 12,000 filled out the form and returned it to the Franklin County Assessor's Office.

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"They all got it three times in the mail," Superintendent Joseph Padasak said.

The homestead and farmstead exclusion forms were first mailed out countywide after Act 72 was passed in 2004 and 32,000 were approved, according to Assessor's Office figures. Act 1 of 2006 superseded Act 72 and additional mailings were sent out to homes and farms in all six school districts.

Those who did not apply for and receive exclusions, along with renters, will pay the higher earned income tax without benefit of the offset offered by the homestead and farmstead exclusions, under Act 1.

The county will do another mailing for the exclusions in December, Rife said.

The tax bills for the district, which usually go out by July 1, are running late, Rife told the board. The company that previously printed the bills was purchased by a company in Texas and the rate it charged went from about 11 cents per bill to about 45 cents, he said. The district decided to go with another printing company, he said.

The bills will be ready to go out by the end of the week, Rife said. The discount period, during which taxpayers to get a 2 percent break on property taxes for early payment, is being changed to July 15 to Sept. 15, allowing taxpayers the same 60-day window of opportunity, he said.

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