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Some Pa. school districts giving homeowners more time to pay property taxes, receive discounts

A new law allows school districts to provide property tax relief to homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Some homeowners have more time to pay their property taxes. Act 75 of 2020 allows school districts to extend tax discount deadlines and remove penalties for late payments through June 30, 2021.

“What our bill will do is allow local school boards, depending on their financial situation and what their fund balances are, to be able to extend the discount period to give more relief to families out there who could really be put in a tough position right now, financially. It also allows them to waive penalties for those who cannot pay on time,” said State Senator Scott Martin, who authored the law. The republican serves Lancaster County.

FOX43 asked a number of school districts in South Central Pennsylvania if they are offering this option to property owners.

West York Area School District and Central Dauphin School District extended the deadline for the payment of school real estate taxes without penalty from October 31, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Mechanicsburg Area School District and Penn Manor School District chose not to opt into the plan because it was signed into law after school tax bills were mailed out July 1.

“The board discussed it, but felt that with the district's senior property tax relief program that has been in place for a number of years along with a no tax increase this year that further action was not necessary,” said Superintendent of Penn Manor Schools, Dr. Mike Leichliter.

Penn Manor is one of 10 Lancaster County school boards that voted against a property tax increase this year. The remaining seven districts approved a motion to raise property taxes for the 2020-2021 school year.

The tax increase adds another burden on cash-strapped families. Tax rates vary by district and in some areas cost $3,265 for a median priced home valued at $193,200.

However, schools may need relief too. Many districts are buying Zoom contracts for remote learning, stepping up cleaning protocols and hiring additional staff to reduce class sizes for returning students.

“Because of COVID-19, the shape of our economy and people’s individual finances, we need to do a better job at finding solutions other than just property taxes to fund our school system,” said Sen. Martin.

The Pequea Valley School District, School District of the City of York, Harrisburg City School District and Cumberland Valley School District did not respond to our requests for comment on whether they are extending property tax discount periods or waiving late fees.

The new law may be a step in the right direction towards property tax reform. It mirrors Act 15, which allows counties and municipalities to provide property tax relief to taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

“Quite frankly, the unemployment numbers are still very bad. Until this economy recovers, we need to keep looking at ways that we can ease the burden on [property owners] and hopefully between Act 15 and Act 75, all the property taxes they pay will have that flexibility,” explained Senator Martin. “We’re actually already looking at potentially doing that for next year too.”

Contact your local tax collector or school district to see if these tax deadline extensions are offered in your community.

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