Limited on taxes, county touts safety

This letter is written in response to a number of letters and comments in the past month recommending that the Blair County commissioners impose an income tax as an alternative to reassessment of property values.

Unfortunately, state law does not permit the county to impose an income tax like school districts and other municipalities are allowed to do. We simply cannot do this.

A few years ago, there were several proposals before the state legislature providing for a sales tax or an income tax to help counties generate revenue without relying on the burdensome real estate tax. Regrettably, the state legislature did not take action on any of these proposals.

As a result, Blair County and all other counties, except Allegheny and Philadelphia which received special treatment in the past, are limited to real estate taxes.

The county’s number one obligation is public safety. If additional revenues are not available by 2017, it will be necessary to make significant reductions in our public safety offices, such as 911, the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office, the prison and our adult and juvenile probation and parole offices.

Our finance director has projected that the needed reductions will range from $1.5 million to $2 million.

Because most of the cuts will only be available in our public safety offices, we will be undoing so much of the progress that has been made in fighting crime in the past five to 10 years by local law enforcement and organizations like Operation Our Town.

Although I prefer not to reassess real estate property values, public safety must come first.

Terry Tomassetti

Blair County Commissioner