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State needs to clean up school property taxes

During the last off-year election cycle, Gov. Tom Wolf carried 17 out of 67 Pennsylvania counties. His challenger, Sen. Scott Wagner, carried the other 50.

Quite a discrepancy.

Wolf retained the governorship because he carried the most populous counties. Looking at a map of Pennsylvania painted red and blue, it looked like Wolf should have taken a blood bath.

What caused this sharp contrast was the message Wagner carried, and the message was “eliminate the school property tax.”

Another year is waning, and our so-called representatives are doing nothing. Locally, we are going to be electing county commissioners, and it looks like attorney Amy Webster is going to be the top votegetter as she rides the tide of reassessment resentment.

Present commissioner Bruce Erb, who stated he was in favor of reassessment but was not a commissioner when the decision was made to go forward with it, just squeaked through the primary for a spot on the fall ballot.

Then we have a president judge that does nothing to correct some of the outrage caused by this reassessment debacle, then fines a juror $500 who couldn’t find a substitute to cover him at his job so he could participate as a juror.

This is a clear indication that the county’s president judge shouldn’t be a judge let alone a president judge. If the legal system of the county cannot defend our property, then they forfeit the right to judge in all cases whatsoever. So don’t expect any relief from the county judicial system against the tyranny of property taxes.

To make things worse, the election process for county commissioners restricts the voters to voting for two commissioners for three positions. This situation was intentionally crafted to distort the electorate’s will.

Given these conditions, what can the electorate expect future commissioners to do about a reassessment that is a done deal?

If you remember, commissioner Terry Tomassetti got his foot in the electoral door by campaigning against reassessment, then did an about face and voted for reassessment, and on his way out has become the biggest spender.

Now we have Webster riding the tide of resentment against reassessment and she hasn’t communicated her thoughts on what she would do to ameliorate this situation.

Both Tomassetti and Webster are lawyers and are beholding to the legal system of this state for their license to practice law. So who is Webster going to represent, the law, which allows this tyranny to continue, or the citizens of this county who pay the bills with their blood, sweat and tears?

While the county property tax is becoming noxious, the school property tax is becoming deadly. The historical nature of county government was to defend our properties; today they won’t even defend their own tax base against the school districts.

If the future county commissioners are going to represent the citizens, all they have to do is pick up where a brave hard working trash man, Wagner, left off.

Webster and the others should make a commitment to the voters that they will work toward forming or joining a majority coalition of county governments to end the school property tax and demand that state government eliminate the mess it has made.

The historical precedent is there, and now is the time for the counties to exercise their authority. The blatantly obvious consequences of last year’s general election demand that the counties step forth and fulfill their responsibility.

Anything less is a dereliction of duty and a failure to defend.

These are public schools, and the public should pay the bill, not the property owners.

Fred Albright

Hollidaysburg

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