Local Tax Shift Gets More Attention
PUBLIC FINANCE ALTERNATIVES
A LANCASTER COUNTY FORUM
The movement for shifting from a property tax to a site-value tax continues to reach more communities. Here is a news recap of a recent event on this tax shift.
Public Finance Alternatives - A Lancaster County Forum was hosted by the Lancaster Greens on Wednesday, March 29th at the Farm and Home Center in Lancaster, PA.
This was the first forum of its kind for Lancaster County to take a serious look at the *two-tier* property tax reform now in place in 20 municipalities throughout Pennsylvania.
A major concern for Lancaster County is controlling overwhelming sprawl while continuing to maintain economic development. The Lancaster Greens purpose in presenting this public forum was to educate political and community leaders about the potential of this new tax tool to curb sprawl by stimulating economic growth in depressed urban areas and encouraging good site use in already developed areas..
A diverse group of local public officials, agency representatives, and community activists attended the Forum.
The Forum speakers were:
Joshua Vincent, Director, Center for the Study of Economics, who opened with an overview of the benefits of this new tax reform for the municipalities that have implemented this policy approach. He explained that the two-tier tax harnesses the property tax in the right direction, decreasing taxes on buildings to promote improvements and good maintenance on existing structures while shifting the tax base onto land values to prevent speculation and keep land sites affordable. His organization is playing a leading role in consultation, implementation and research for this new policy approach.
Napoleon Saunders, Business Administrator for the City of Harrisburg, spoke about the positive 20 year history of use of the two-tier tax in the state capitol. This tax reform has been one of the key tools in advancing Harrisburg from the second most distressed city in the USA in 1980 to one which has won numerous civic awards during the past several years. Previously, Harrisburg had more than 5,000 boarded-up buildings and was in serious decline. Today, there are fewer than 400 buildings out of use and significant increases in jobs and community services.
Richard S. Rybeck, Deputy Administrator, Office of Intermodal Planning, Department of Public Works, Washington, DC detailed the importance of shifting taxes on to site value to discourage sprawl, curb land speculation and encourage in-fill urban development. He explained how the proper tax policy can positively support many *smart growth* objectives of city planners while improving the overall economic climate.
Benjamin Howells, former councilman for the City of Allentown, PA, talked about the recent adoption of the two-tier tax by his city. He shared with us the political process involved in its implemenation and how they were able to overcome the opposition. Recent research shows an increased number of building permits and other positive benefits are already occurring in Allentown since this two-tier tax was initiated.
Alanna Hartzok, Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Fair Tax Coalition, placed this tax reform in the context of the broad agenda of the ecological *green tax* movement. With the rubric *pay for what you take, not what you make* taxes should be reduced or removed from wages and shifted onto land and resource use to encourage conservation and fair access. Broader application of land value taxation has the potential to address a wide range of social problems including issues of affordable housing and wealth distribution.
Following the speakers presentations, participants were given time for round table discussion to share their impressions and concerns about this tax policy and its possible effect on Lancaster County. Questions from each table were then addressed to the speakers and a lively interchange ensued. Participants received information packets and many expressed an interest in moving ahead with the two-tier tax shift for Lancaster and boroughs in the county.
Cosponsors for Public Finance Alternatives included:
The Hourglass Foundation
Lancaster Healthy Communities
Borough of Columbia
NOW, Lancaster Chapter
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania
John Graupera, Lancaster City Council
Lancaster Women In Black
This information was sent to The Progress Report by Alanna Hartzok, Pennsylvania Fair Tax Coalition. Ms. Hartzok can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Would your city, county or region benefit from a Public Finance Alternatives forum for public discussion? Do your local officials understand the advantages of site value taxation over the property tax? Tell your views and reactions to The Progres s Report:
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