Monroe, Lehigh and Northampton counties continue to have some of the heaviest property tax burdens in the state, giving lawmakers plenty of motivation to keep seeking relief for hard-hit taxpayers.
They appear to have a willing new partner in Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro.
During his campaign, Shapiro proposed tax relief moves similar to ones Valley lawmakers have unsuccessfully sought to push through the state Legislature. They include a proposed increase — from $35,000 to $50,000 — in the threshold for homeowners to qualify for a state program that sends out property tax rebates as well as rent rebates.
“As governor, Josh will work to bring Democrats and Republicans together to expand the Property Tax Rent Rebate program in order to cover more seniors and put more money back in Pennsylvanians’ pockets,” Shapiro spokesman Manuel Bonder said.
A new array of lawmakers will be sworn in when the House and Senate return to Harrisburg on Jan. 3. Shapiro, currently attorney general, will be sworn in on Jan. 17.
Meanwhile, Lehigh Valley region property owners continue to bear some of the biggest tax burdens in the state.
The Independent Fiscal Office, using 2020 data, recently reported total property taxes paid in Monroe County represent an average of 5.14% of income in the county. That figure was down from 5.7% in an IFO analysis about a year earlier, but it still meant Monroe has the worst property tax burden.
A separate report released earlier this year by the IFO also put Monroe first in terms of school property taxes paid, per capita.
Northampton and Lehigh counties, which previously were ranked fifth and 10th in terms of tax burdens, respectively, moved up to fourth and eighth in the latest rankings.
Here are the 10 counties with the highest tax burdens, showing the average percentage of income as well as taxes paid:
- Monroe County: 5.14%; $427 million
Pike County: 4.33%; $139 million
Sullivan County: 4.1%; $13 million
Northampton County: 3.76%; $706 million
Wayne County: 3.71%; $97 million
Berks County: 3.61%; $835 million
York County: 3.47%; $877 million
Lehigh County: 3.3%; $703 million
Greene County: 3.15%; $54 million
Delaware County: 3.13%; $1.357 billion
Democratic Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County said she plans to reintroduce legislation in the new session that would increase income limits to qualify for the rebate program.
The limits, which have not been adjusted since 2008, would go from $15,000 to $30,000 for renters seeking rent rebates and from $35,000 to $50,000 for homeowners seeking property tax rebates.
Boscola said she also believes that to qualify for the program, cost-of-living increases in Social Security payments made to senior citizens should be excluded from consideration as income.
On Shapiro’s similar positions, Boscola said it appeared many people are thinking along the same lines.
“It has a really good shot,” she said.
The new array of lawmakers will include a switch by Monroe County resident Rosemary Brown from the House to the Senate, where the Republican won election in the district being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Mario Scavello.
Attempts to contact Brown were unsuccessful.
Scavello said he was pleased by Shapiro’s position.
“Expanding the program would help a tremendous amount of seniors, and the seniors are the ones I worry about,” Scavello said. “They paid taxes all of their lives, and now they are hurting.”
Source: Berkshire mont