A Cumberland County proposal to allow a sales tax increase for property tax relief is catching attention, while a York County legislator has drafted a bill that would accomplish the same goal in York.
York County Commissioners said they're interested in a plan like the one in Cumberland County, where commissioners recently approved a resolution calling on their legislative delegation to introduce a measure that would give counties the option to increase their sales taxes by 1 percent.
Proceeds would be used to give property tax relief to owner-occupied properties, called homesteads.
Cumberland County Commissioner Jim Hertzler, who introduced the plan, said he's hoping legislators from the area will push the measure. Calculations show the change could mean a $700 decrease in property taxes for the average homestead there, Hertzler said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, has already drafted similar legislation that would allow York County to decide whether to increase its sales tax by 1 percent.
He said he'd be willing to add Cumberland County to his proposal, which he plans to
introduce by the end of the month, if its legislators want to be included.
Grove said he wrote the bill because it's unlikely proposals to eliminate property taxes will be successful, and it's time to "move in some direction."
Big savings? Grove said his calculations show York County would generate $39 million per year if it increased its sales tax by 1 percent, translating to $330 in savings for the average homestead.
York's commissioners, which would have to vote to increase the sales tax if the general assembly passes Grove's bill, said they're interested in the possibilities.
"I would need to read it first, but any movement away from the current system, in my mind, is certainly advantageous," said Commissioner Chris Reilly. "Conceptually, it's a dream. I'm all ears."
Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke said $330 is "not a lot of money in my estimation ... but if something like this starts the conversation about reforming property taxes in Pennsylvania, I think that would be great."
Hoke said he would like to see county residents decide by referendum, voting on whether they want the shift in taxation.
At least a start: President Commissioner Steve Chronister said the shift will be "a good debate to have in York County," because direly needed reform has been elusive.
"I don't think it's the cure for the property tax debacle we're in, but I think it helps," he said. "The $300 is a start, but we need to go farther. You shouldn't be taxing the roofs over peoples' heads."
One concern, though, would be whether the extra 1 percent -- taking the county's sales tax to 7 percent -- would discourage Marylanders from shopping in southern York, in places such as Shrewsbury and Hanover, he said.
Grove's bill would preserve the exceptions in place for food and clothing, which he said are the reasons people come north to shop.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.