Area residents to see property tax relief from gambling revenue

For the sixth year since Harrisburg passed the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, Pennsylvania residents, including those in Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties, will see a reduction in property tax bills.

The property-tax rebates, or “exclusions,” are revenues realized from slot machines approved by the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004.

Upon receipt of property tax bills in July and August, homeowners and farm owners in Chester County will see a reduction of $124 to $331, depending on the school district. Berks County homeowners and farm owners could see a reduction of $110 to $375, and in Montgomery County could see relief ranging from $72 to $372.

Signed in 2006 and modified in 2011, the Taxpayer Relief Act was designed to ease the financial burden of home ownership by providing school districts means to lower property taxes to homeowners, especially senior citizens, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The department anticipates that gaming will ultimately generate $1 billion each year for local property tax relief.

For 2013-14, the commonwealth’s budget secretary certified that $611.6 million in state-funded local tax relief will be available.

Total property tax reduction allocations for Chester County total more than $26.7 million because of gaming revenues.

The specific reduction each taxpayer will see on their tax bill is based on their school district through a formula that distributes funds based on a school district’s tax capacity, tax effort and tax burden.

According the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the average estimated rebates for Chester County residents are:

Avon Grove School District: $331

Coatesville Area School District: $258

Downingtown Area School District: $200

Great Valley School District: $124

Kennett Consolidated School District: $221

Octorara Area School District: $264

Owen J. Roberts School District: $163

Oxford Area School District: $269

Phoenixville Area School District: $141

Tredyffrin-Easttown School District: $178

Unionville-Chadds Ford School District: $224

West Chester Area School District: $132

The average estimated rebates for Montgomery County residents are:

Methacton School District: $215

Norristown School District: $213

Perkiomen Valley School District: $203

Pottsgrove School District: $271

Pottstown School District: $370

Spring-Ford School District: $185

Upper Perkiomen School District’s data was unavailable.

The average estimated rebates for Berks County residents are:

Boyertown Area School District: $145

Daniel Boone School District: $232

Exeter School District: $186

Hamburg Area School District: $176

Kutztown Area School District: $181

Oley Valley School District: $160

Reading School District: $375

The department stated the actual amount of tax relief per homestead and farmstead will be calculated by each school district and may differ from the estimates.

A homestead exclusion lowers property taxes by reducing the assessed value of the home, according to the department. For example, if a home is assessed at $50,000 and the homestead exclusion is $5,000, then the homeowner only pays taxes on an assessed value of $45,000.

A farmstead exclusion provides property tax relief to farmers. A farmstead applies to buildings used for agricultural purposes on a farm that is at least 10 contiguous acres. The farmstead must also be the primary residence of its owner. Farmers can be eligible for both a homestead exclusion and a farmstead exclusion.

The reductions go to homeowners who live in their homes and who have filed a Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion Form with their county assessment office. Chester County residents can call the Chester County Assessment office at 610-344-6105 to check the status of their homestead filing. Montgomery County residents can call 610-278-3770, Berks County residents can call 610-478-6262.

To be eligible for one of these exclusions, residents must submit an application to their county assessor. School districts are required to send an application to all residential property owners by Dec. 31 each year. Applications are then due by March 1.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, said although the rebate doesn’t reduce school taxes enough, the program does deliver the largest property tax cut in Pennsylvania history and is an example of public policy that correctly and properly benefits taxpayers, including senior citizens on fixed incomes.

“The problem is not solved, and we must move forward on property tax reform. But the gaming tax rebate stands as an example of public policy that rightly encourages the American dream of owning and continuing to live in one’s home,” Dinniman said.

For more information on filing for the homestead/farmstead exclusion, visit http://www.newpa.com/local-government/tax-information/property-tax-relief-through-homestead-exclusion

Follow Jeremy Gerrard on Twitter @JeremyGerrard.

Information from the Daily Local News, www.dailylocal.com