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November 01, 2017

Pa. voters could open the door to eliminating their property taxes

Ballot question could pave the way for a state constitutional amendment

Property owners can't just make their taxes disappear, but Pennsylvanians could do the next best thing next week.

Eligible Pennsylvania voters could push through a referendum that could mark a step toward eliminating their own property tax next week.

RELATED: 2017 PA general election: What you need to know

Under the property tax referendum question, residents can amend the constitution to allow counties, municipalities and school districts to exclude up to 100 percent of their home's assessed value, which means taxpayers in those jurisdictions wouldn't have any property taxes on their primary residence.

Currently, local taxing authorities can exclude property owners up to 50 percent of the median assessed property value in a taxing district, though few have adopted it.

The median assessed value is the middle dollar value of all properties in a taxing district, when lined up in numerical order.

The question reads as follows: "Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?"

The state Senate voted in July, 46-2, to put the question on the ballot next Tuesday.

RELATED: 2017 N.J. general election: What you need to know

But even if the referendum passes, officials would still need to work out how to make up for the loss of property tax revenue, which could involve raising taxes in other areas.

The referendum comes amid a push in recent years for property tax reform from a number of grassroots organizations and state officials.

Gov. Tom Wolf has also singled out reform of property taxes as a goal for his possible second term. Wolf is up for re-election next year.

One piece of proposed legislation, the Property Tax Independence Act, would eliminate school property taxes by raising income and sales taxes.

The bill approving the referendum question be found here.

CorrectionThis story has been updated to show that the referendum question asks voters whether they would allow counties, municipalities and school districts to exclude up to 100 percent of their homes' assessed value, not up to 100 percent of the median assessed value of all homes within their taxing district.