Saturday, January 21, 2006

Local tax news

WILKES-BARRE - A preliminary 2006-2007 budget for the Wilkes-Barre Area School District contained a 14-mill tax increase. 'There's a lot of guesswork that goes into this budget," said business administrator Ralph Scoda. "Over the next several months as events occur, and as we watch our expenditures, I have confidence that we can lower this millage." The preliminary general fund budget calls for $84,834,000 in spending. School Board member Brian O'Donnell asked the board how the district could cut expenses. Scoda said increasing revenues will help lower the millage more effectively than cutting expenses. "Cutting costs will be very difficult," Scoda said. "I try to be very conservative with the revenues so it keeps us out of trouble."

So the usual charade begins. First they announce a hefty increase then pat themselves on the back when the actual increase is smaller than announced. With all the talk in Harrisburg about lowering property taxes- by shifting to other sources-no relief is in sight. When the ongoing reassement is completed this year expect all hell to break loose when just about everyone files an appeal.

Property owner warns of reassement errors

RICE TWP. - John Whitonis spent more than 30 minutes showing a reassessment worker his entire Mountain Top property last summer, so he wasn't pleased when a different worker returned Thursday and pointed out two flaws with the first worker's report. The second worker told Whitonis he returned because the wrong photo of the Church Road property was made part of the reassessment company's record. While visiting the Whitonis property, the worker noticed a free-standing garage that wasn't recorded by his predecessor. That puzzled Whitonis, who said he held one end of the measuring tape to help the first worker take the building's dimensions. That worker also shot two pictures of the garage and several of the house, Whitonis said.
"How reliable are all the other appraisals that were done if my property was grossly interpreted?" Whitonis said. "It's a large mistake and it's not like I wasn't home. I was here that day so there would be no mistakes."

He also recounts problems he has had with the county assessor's office in the past. But the good news is that property tax bills have been given a makeover:

Property tax bills will look different this year because Luzerne County has switched to a computerized program billed as more efficient to save the county $100,000 annually.
The county produces and mails bills for school, county and municipal taxes. Under the old system, the county's data processing department printed the tax bills and sent them to municipal tax collectors. Tax collectors stuffed the envelopes, checked the addresses and brought them back to the county to be mailed. The county will eliminate some of that work by mailing the bills directly to property owners. The county will fold and pressure-seal the bills.

Some local tax collectors are not happy with the change because they will lose $4 for each unpaid tax bill handed over to the county at the end of the year. Why do we need tax collectors anyway? One claims that she double checks the addresses to make sure they are correct. Maybe she does but it took me 2 years to get the address right for a rental property we own. After pointing out the mistake to our local yokel several times I ended up going to the courthouse to get it fixed. And I'm tired of hearing it's more convenient for the senior citizens. Seniors get other bills such as utilities, credit cards, etc. and those companies don't have someone down the street collecting their checks. Tax Collector is another one of those offices that should be eliminated

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