Property tax relief might feel like property tax déjà vu in 2012-13.
The estimated property tax revenue homeowners can expect from slots revenue for tax bills that come out July 1 has been released by the state Office of the Budget.
The county average?
This past year?
It was $166.29.
The increase: About one extra pull of the slots lever.
The final numbers will be determined when districts finalize their tax rates for the 2011-12 school year.
To qualify for tax relief, homeowners have to contact their municipality and file for "homestead status," which means the home is their primary place of residence. The tax relief is then automatically deducted from their property tax bill.
The state average remains at $200 in relief per homestead.
Status quo: State officials said property tax relief hasn't greatly increased over the years for many reasons, partly because only 11 of 14 possible casinos are open. Gov. Ed Rendell, who rolled out the program to license slots casinos in exchange for generating property tax relief money, said about $1 billion a year would eventually go into tax relief.
But the amount going toward property tax relief is only about $595 million next year, just about the same as it's been the past several years, according to the budget office.
That's despite the fact that slots revenue has increased in recent years. Although final figures for the 2011-12 fiscal year aren't in, revenue is expected to top last year's $1.28 billion, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. It was at $1.19 billion in 2010-11.
The increase in funding, though, hasn't turned into more taxpayer relief because money needs to go back into the
reserve fund for the program, said budget spokesman Eric Shirk.
The state had to borrow money from the reserve for its property tax relief program in past years to meet the minimum total required by state statute to provide relief. Now that reserve is being restored, he said.
Once all the casinos are running and the reserve is back up, tax relief should rise, he said.
"Who knows what the future holds," Shirk said.
By district: State Rep. Eugene DePasquale's district includes the York City School District, where taxpayers will get $490 per homestead, the same as this past year. DePasquale said he wasn't among the lawmakers who viewed the slots program as salvation for property owners. Property tax reform is needed, he said, because there's only so much revenue the program can generate.
"You can't force people to gamble," he said.
At South Western, taxpayers can get $151 in tax relief, or about $2 less than they got three years ago.
"Is more money going into that program? They always say that, but it never does," said district business manager Jeff Mummert.
Getting some relief is better than nothing, though, several officials said. Dallastown homeowners once again can get $126 off their property tax bill. Dallastown didn't have a tax increase this past year, and is considering doing the same next year.
But for any district with a tax increase, a level amount of property tax relief doesn't cut it, said Dallastown business manager Donna Devlin. Dallastown also offers its own property tax reduction program for seniors, lopping off an additional $433 this year.
There's one thing about offering property tax relief, Devlin said.
"Once you start a program for that, you can't really stop," she said. "People count on it."
Information: For information on signing up for homestead status, contact the county assessor's office at 771-9232 or your local school district. The deadline for next year has passed, but applications can be taken for the following year.
Homeowners do not need to file for homestead status more than once after being accepted, and they should see on their property tax bill a line item with a direct reduction to their total after being enrolled.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431 or email@example.com.