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Thread: Interesting Letters from my School District

  1. #1
    Administrator Andy's Avatar
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    Interesting Letters from my School District

    First I got this email:

    NPSD Needs your help! Important Message from Dr. Dietrich
    Friday, May 19, 2017 12:20 PM

    From: "North Penn School District" <webadmin@npenn.org>

    Dear North Penn Families,

    The North Penn School District and all public schools in the state of Pennsylvania need your help NOW. In just a few days on Monday, May 22nd, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is poised to move a bill that could have a disastrous impact on the North Penn School District. If House Bill 1213<https://www.votervoice. net/BroadcastLinks/ QIXSpv5kj4fUSrWnQOeREA> is passed by the House, North Penn and the funding of public education, in general, is in jeopardy. And, North Penn, in particular, will be hit the third hardest in the state, only behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

    The House bill not only prohibits a school district from engaging in reverse assessment appeals but also redefines market value for the purpose of changing the valuation of property to the detriment of school districts and other local taxing authorities. This shift in property valuation is based on the "dark store theory," in which properties are valued based on sales of comparable vacant properties.

    Now let me put some scary but true numbers to this. The impact of the “dark store theory” would be a conservative 25 percent decrease in commercial property valuation, or an $11 million hit to NPSD. Being unable to engage in reverse assessment appeals would be another immediate $3.4 million loss in revenues from properties previously appealed and another $2.3 million loss in projected revenues for appeals in process.

    This is catastrophic news for North Penn, a tax burden shift from commercial properties (primarily big box stores and apartment complexes) to homeowners, and it further limits our ability to provide the quality education that our students and community deserve.

    It is imperative that you reach out to your House member TODAY to make sure he or she understands the impact of House Bill 1213 on the future of education and our children. Below are some ways that you can get the conversation started.

    Talk to your House member on the impact of the prohibition on reverse appeals:

    Take a look at the FAQs on the bill here<https://www.votervoice. net/BroadcastLinks/ wk38af3PQDpsVJgLxxN29g>.

    Make sure they know that under-assessed commercial property means higher property taxes for homeowners.

    Give them ACTUAL EXAMPLES (listed above) from the North Penn School District.

    Tell them to support an amendment that would prohibit reverse appeals ONLY against homestead/ farmstead properties--still allowing reverse appeals on commercial properties.

    Make sure they understand that property--especially thriving commercial property--should not be valued as though it is vacant property.

    Make sure they know that this will spell disaster for school districts (and other local governments) and increased property taxes for homeowners.


    Please CALL or EMAIL your house members, talk to them about BOTH components of House Bill 1213 and ask them to OPPOSE the bill.

    Below is a link you can use to determine your legislator in the PA House. You should enter your home address. Please note that in completing the search, your State Senator and United States Congressman may also be located (see below). In the case below, Rep. Boyle does not need to be contacted.

    Here is the link: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/ cfdocs/legis/home/ findyourlegislator/

    Below is an example of a search for the ESC in Lansdale.

    PA House
    Rep. GODSHALL<http://www.legis. state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/ member_information/house_bio. cfm?id=111>
    District 53

    Show on map<http://www.legis.state.pa. us/cfdocs/legis/home/ findyourlegislator/?doSearch= yes&addr=401+East+Hancock+ Street&city=Lansdale&zipCode= 19446&fullAddr=401+East+ Hancock+Street%2C+Lansdale%2C+ PA%2C+19446&geoLat=40.2320945& geoLng=-75.28014869999998& geoResponse=OK#address>

    PA Senate

    Sen. MENSCH<http://www.legis.state. pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/ member_information/senate_bio. cfm?id=1121>
    District 24

    Show on map<http://www.legis.state.pa. us/cfdocs/legis/home/ findyourlegislator/?doSearch= yes&addr=401+East+Hancock+ Street&city=Lansdale&zipCode= 19446&fullAddr=401+East+ Hancock+Street%2C+Lansdale%2C+ PA%2C+19446&geoLat=40.2320945& geoLng=-75.28014869999998& geoResponse=OK#address>


    US House
    Rep. BOYLE
    District 13

    Show on map<http://www.legis.state.pa. us/cfdocs/legis/home/ findyourlegislator/?doSearch= yes&addr=401+East+Hancock+ Street&city=Lansdale&zipCode= 19446&fullAddr=401+East+ Hancock+Street%2C+Lansdale%2C+ PA%2C+19446&geoLat=40.2320945& geoLng=-75.28014869999998& geoResponse=OK#address>

    Thank you for your attention to this extremely important matter.

    Sincerely,

    Curtis R. Dietrich
    Superintendent
    NPSD
    ... and then:

    Important Message from NPSD Superintendent - Update on HB 1213
    Wednesday, May 24, 2017 3:42 PM

    From: "North Penn School District" <donotreply@npenn.org>
    Dear Families,

    I have some good news concerning an issue that I wrote to you about last week and for which I asked your help. For those of you who called your local legislator about Pennsylvania House Bill 1213, your efforts have made a difference. The “Dark Store” (valuing a property as if it is vacant) portion of the bill has been removed and I have been told that the House is now taking the next two weeks to further discuss the implications of the bill in its entirety, including the implications of its provision which would prohibit a school district from initiating assessment appeals.

    The removal of the Dark Store portion is a huge win for school districts across the state. It would have drastically shifted how properties are assessed, and in the case of commercial properties it would have been a financial windfall for large-sized properties (e.g. “big box” stores/apartment complexes) and a huge loss for public education. This would have been especially the case for North Penn where we were poised to lose more than $11 million per year if this portion of HB 1213 remained.

    I have spent a great deal of time over the last week talking with legislators on this important issue and I am not finished. We are still looking at more than a $5 million loss in revenue if the bill is passed in its revised form, given that it still contains the prohibition of school districts initiating assessment appeals and contains retroactivity language which impacts previously negotiated settlements of such appeals. I will continue to emphasize that the need for the ability of either side to initiate assessment appeals is critically necessary and fair.

    I urge your continued support of this important matter and ask you to once again contact your legislator on this issue. Please CALL or EMAIL your house members, thank them for removing the Dark Store portion of the bill but tell them that you still OPPOSE House Bill 1213 and its prohibition of school district initiated appeals. Ask them to maintain the ability of both the property owner and the school district to initiate an assessment appeal.

    As a reminder, below is a link you can use to determine your legislators. You should enter your home address. Please note that in completing the search, your United States Congressman may also be located (see below) however that individual would not be contacted on this particular issue as it not a federal-level issue.

    Here is the link: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/...ourlegislator/

    I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done to help us fight this bill. I now ask for your continued support so that the North Penn School District can always provide this community a premier education, excellent programs and an outstanding staff.

    Sincerely,

    Curtis R. Dietrich, Ed.D.
    Superintendent
    North Penn School District

  2. #2
    Administrator Andy's Avatar
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    So my first thoughts were:

    1) Why is the superintendent using his taxpayer funded email and time to do political lobbying on behalf of a specific bill?
    2) What is this bill all about?

    I did some research and it seems that other superintendents are also concerned about this bill and somehow I found the name of this company involved:

    Keystone Realty Advisors LLC at 2 Kings Hwy W, Haddonfield, NJ 08033.

    NEW JERSEY!

    It turns out that this company from NEW JERSEY! has been approaching Pennsylvania school districts and giving them a "free money, you can't lose" offer. They find properties that appear to be under-assessed and will file appeals to get the taxes raised. If successful, the school district pays the NEW JERSEY! company between 20-30% of the gains over the next 3 years. So let's say a local business has their taxes raised by $10k/yr, the school district gets say $7500 each year and this NEW JERSEY! company gets $2500 each year for a total of $7500. Here's an article I found about it in a nearby school district:

    http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/alle...ct_cons_1.html

    Last night I sent that link in an email to the Superintendent of my school district and asked him if ours employs that company as well. Surprisingly I got back a reply 30 min later asking for my phone number. The Superintendent called me and we had a long conversation where he explained that they do indeed use this NEW JERSEY! company and have since 2012-ish.

    I can understand why the district would enjoy this "free money" but I explained that it would be much more open and honest to just ask taxpayers to pay more as a whole rather than using some NEW JERSEY! company to target specific taxpayers (it sounds like just businesses since homeowners are too small of fish to be worth their while).

    Pennsylvania House Bill 1213 would not only end this process, but it would make it retroactive to some degree so any ill-gotten gains would need to be returned to property owners and as he agreed on the phone "Keystone Realty won't be refunding the 20-25%".

    I asked what alternate proposals he had and he suggested having more frequent assessments (ours hasn't been done since 1998 and a neighboring county hasn't been done since 1972!?!). That seems fair and reasonable and I'd rather some of our tax dollars pay for local assessors and lawyers than some NEW JERSEY! company.
    Last edited by Andy; 05-25-2017 at 11:05 AM.

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  4. #3
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    Andy,

    Eight words come to mind -- Lead, follow, or get out of the way:

    http://www.npenn.org/domain/3

    The school board is the legal entity responsible for all financial/business decisions of the district, and 5 out of 9 members (including the president/VP) are up for election in 2017. I would be the first person to sign your ballot petition, but alas I don't live in the district. You'll give up a few evenings per month of your free time, and I *guarantee* that the experience will be an eye-opener if you have never had to deal with itemized budgets, labor contracts, state aid, grants, building codes and deferred maintenance, and other fun things that go on behind the scenes.

    I think that I posted a long writeup of what happened the night that I went to a school board budget presentation a few years ago, and had the superintendent *cringing* every time that I raised my hand. Several attendees (including the regional newspaper reporter covering the presentation) commented on how I asked good questions that showed they didn't do their homework. I have no kids to have any interest/concern in the local schools, and have never been to a meeting either before or after this.

    My health precludes me from running locally, but that does not mean that you can't try to win one of the seats in your town to start your political resume.....

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  6. #4
    Administrator Andy's Avatar
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    Interesting:

    http://www.thereporteronline.com/art...MP08/308189961

    North Penn seeks $1 million in additional real estate taxes
    By LINDA STEIN
    POSTED: 08/18/11, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 08/18/2011

    The owners of 26 commercial and rental properties can expect legal notices from the North Penn School District.

    Acting on the advice of solicitor Jack Dooley, the North Penn School Board voted Thursday to file assessment appeals against 26 properties that officials believe are undervalued by $1 million.

    As part of its strategy to try to increase revenue and cut expenses in the wake of state cutbacks, the district previously hired consultant Keystone Realty Associates to identify properties that are under assessed. The consultant will be paid on a contingency basis only.

    The appeals will proceed to litigation depending on the response of the property owners, Dooley said. The district did not go after residential property owners.

    "This is a concerted effort to target commercial properties that are underassessed," said Board Member Stephen Hladick, chair of the finance committee. "This is a good move for the district."

    The deadline to file the assessment appeals is Sept. 1.

    Usually, property owners appeal their assessments, believing they are paying too much in taxes, rather than the taxing entity. Recently, the district settled with the Montgomery Mall and J.C. Penney's department store, with both businesses reducing their assessment. This year, the district lost $79,841 in revenue from the Penney's settlement and $193,185 from the mall settlement.

    Because of the recession, 43 commercial property owners also appealed for reductions, according to Robert Schoch, district director of business administration. Those appeals cost the district $264,843, with an average reduction of 12.7 percent.

    The properties getting hit with North Penn assessment appeals include: Snyder Square Shopping Center; CVS at Snyder Square; Madison at Montgomery apartments; CVS in Upper Gwynedd Township; Station Square Apartments; Citizens Bank; Rite Aid in Lansdale; Texas Roadhouse; Wissahickon Apartments; Montgomery Square Shopping Center; the AC Moore in Thomasville Retail Center; Homewood Suites; and the Walgreen in Lansdale.

    The board also approved several personnel changes, including moving some of the 36 demoted teachers into full-time positions, including some as long-term substitutes. Controversy erupted when the board demoted the full time teachers to part time after the teachers' union voted against a wage freeze the board asked for to help it balance its $199.2 million budget.

    Superintendent Curt Dietrich said that two of the demoted teachers had resigned and that other teachers retired or quit, leaving openings.

    The board appointed Douglas Povilaitis, who had been an assistant principal at North Penn High School, as the new principal at Oak Park Elementary School, replacing Bonnie Rosen, who is retiring.

    Sarah Sherpinsky, wife of Board President Vincent Sherpinsky, will move from her job as secretary at the the high school to secretary at Oak Park. After the meeting, Dietrich explained that district policy permits relatives of board members to work for the district.
    http://web.saxo.thereporteronline.co...WS01/120729679

    North Penn School Board seeks $40.6 million more in assessments from 26 properties
    By LINDA STEIN, lstein@thereporteronline.com
    POSTED: 07/26/12, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 07/26/2012

    LANSDALE — In a brief meeting Wednesday evening, the North Penn School Board voted to appeal the real estate tax assessments on 26 commercial and industrial properties that their consultants estimate are undervalued by $40.6 million.

    “It’s a significant amount of money,” said school board President Vincent Sherpinsky.

    This will be the third year that the district has taken this action. Meanwhile, it’s lost several million in revenue in the last few years as property owners appeal their assessments as real estate values declined during the recession.

    “We took an aggressive stance on this,” said Sherpinsky. “It’s a big issue. We like to stay on top of it.”

    Last year, property owners settled with the district adding $640,000 to its coffers. However, some of the 27 properties the district appealed last year have taken the matter to the Court of Common Pleas and those cases remain pending, Sherpinsky said.

    “They have the right to fight it,” he said.

    Sherpinsky said the issue is one of equity so that all property owners pay their fair share. The board does not appeal residential assessments.

    The appeals go first to Montgomery County’s Board of Assessment Appeals, which rules by November. If the sides don’t agree or can’t reach a settlement, then those appeals head into court.

    The school district’s consultant, Keystone Realty, “combs through the records and makes up the list,” said Sherpinsky. Keystone is paid on a contingency basis.

    Meanwhile, the board’s finance committee met Wednesday as well.

    The financial picture appears to be improving for the district as both real estate transfer tax and earned income tax revenue have increased while payroll has decreased by $2 million. The district is looking at $5 million more than it budgeted for, although committee Chairman Stephen Hladik said that amount will decrease when some bills come due.

    Robert Schoch, director of business administration, said the larger than expected surplus was due to more teachers resigning or retiring than expected, lower health care costs through self insurance and aggressive energy management efforts that have also cut costs.

    However, Controller Irene Dickinson, said that the final amount the district will receive from the state has yet to be determined and that could affect the unexpected surplus.

    “It’s a very good way to be starting off a fiscal year,” said Hladik.
    Last edited by Andy; 05-25-2017 at 11:59 AM.

  7. #5
    Ross-Tech Employee Eric's Avatar
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    Ugh, my (friendly) neighbor is mentioned in the above post
    You ain't metal till you got a clutch pedal

  8. #6
    Verified VCDS User vreihen's Avatar
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    ^^^^^ Make North Penn great again...sign Andy's ballot petition.....

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