‘Poster child’ takes case to Harrisburg

Jerry SasalaJan. 16, 2015 -- Austin Area School District in rural Potter County is a poster child for the Pa. State Land Tax Fairness Coalition, with about 90 percent of its real estate tax-exempt due to state ownership. On Thursday, Jan. 29, Austin Area School Superintendent Jerry Sasala will testify about the inequities during an appearance before the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission in Greensburg.

It’s comprised of 12 Senators and Representatives, as well as the State Education Secretary, State Budget Secretary and State Deputy Secretary of Administration Nichole Duffy.

Superintendent Sasala is poised to advance the coalition’s mission to persuade the legislature to increase the in-lieu-of-taxes payments on state-owned land, and provide a cut of the revenue the state derives from gas/oil leases and timber sales for counties, school districts and municipalities.

"Our school district is severely stressed by the high proportion of real estate that is owned by the state and is thus tax-exempt,” Sasala will tell the commission. “By law, school districts, municipalities and county governments depend on the real estate tax for the bulk of their necessary operating revenue. The system is unfair, since property owners face a burden that is clearly disproportional and unfair.”