County’s ‘partners’ should pay their share

Quoting from the county handout on “Understanding Reassessment”: After reassessment is achieved, each property owner will be paying his or her “fair share” of the tax burden.

It sounds good, but the truth is there is a lot of county property that is identified as tax exempt.

That means they don’t pay any taxes (no matter what their true value is), but they still enjoy all of the resources (police, fire, maintenance, etc.) provided by the actual taxpayer dollars.

This “lost income” is about 30 percent of the total property tax values, and that means the “real taxpayer” is not only paying his fair share, but also paying the share of the property owner who is tax exempt.

Is this fair?

Some large property owners (like UPMC Altoona, which is tax exempt) has entered into a voluntary system called a “Pilot Program.”

This “payment in lieu of taxes” is an agreement to pay a certain amount of money to the various taxing authorities in lieu of the actual tax value of the property.

If the yearly agreed-upon amount is consistent, then this is better than the hospital not paying any tax at all. Under the present state rules on tax exempt property, it seems like the hospital is trying to be a good partner with the county.

In my mind, all of the tax-exempt property in the county should be identified as candidates for a new “modified type of PILOT program.”

If they can’t provide actual tax dollars, what other resources can they offer to the various municipalities where they are located? Remember these property owners still get to use all of the provided resources provided by the actual taxpayer.

Since lack of money has caused the city to enter into Act 47 and the county to reassess, 2014 could be a good time to take a hard look at the future of the county and how we generate future operating dollars and resources.

To me, this would be the true meaning of fairness.

Bob Gutshall


(The writer is the chairman of the Altoona Planning Commission.)