Chambersburg Council could push Franklin Co. to finally update over 60 year old property tax rolls

06 January 2024- Is it a big, flashy legislation that is sure to polarize voters and property holders across Franklin County? No, but reassessing THE oldest real estate tax valuations in the entire state of Pennsylvania remains at the top of Chambersburg Borough Council’s agenda for a new year, and for good reason.

Last December, Chambersburg Borough Council approved FY24’s newest budget with some increases in fees but no tax increases. The Borough has the 14th highest budget for any municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and THE highest for any borough. This is for a vital reason, though, as utilities in the borough are owned by the borough, which keeps costs to residents at extremely low levels compared to their nearby private sector counterparts.

Where do tax rolls (aka property tax evaluations) factor into this? All municipalities in the state run off a system of taxation called milage. A mil is 1/1000th of a value, which determines tax rates for residents and property owners. Chambersburg has some of the highest milage in the entire state, solely because property tax rates are technically so low. Franklin County, which Chambersburg is the seat of, last did a reassessment of property tax rolls during the administration of John F. Kennedy (1961-62)! A home that was sold in 2020 for $120,000 only has an assessed tax rate of $17,500!

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a cap for how many mils a municipality can charge and Chambersburg, unsurprisingly, is very quickly approaching that cap. They vitally need to update real estate tax rolls in order to provide enough, and high enough quality, services to the populace that not only lives in the borough but travels into it for work.

Now, a reassessment of property tax rolls doesn’t raise rates drastically like you may think it does. When a reassessment takes place, one third of taxes go up, one third stay the same, and one third actually go down. While the new assessment value changes drastically, it doesn’t directly change tax rates because the Commonwealth uses such a Byzantine and complex system.

That is why, as stated in the beginning, Chambersburg Borough Council is set to vote on “authorization for the Council President to issue correspondence to the Franklin County Commissioners requesting that they undertake a comprehensive reassessment of real estate valuations as soon as possible; and to invite other borough councils to join the effort”. That vote, which could come as soon as Monday nigh during Council’s first non-reorganization meeting of the new year, is first on the short list for the body.

Why now? Council has had literally over 10 presidential administrations to push for this reevaluation. But the key, many think, is the new makeup of the Franklin County Commissioners Board. While former Commission Chair John Flannery (R) and Bob Ziobrowski (D) return after being reelected in November, the Commission Chair seat moves to newly elected, and top vote getter, Dean Horst (R). Both Horst and Flannery have signaled their openness to updating the rolls and potentially Ziobrowski.

Your full business of the borough with Allen Coffman, Borough Council President in Chambersburg is set to address this just after 7:30am on Monday during his weekly visit. Hear directly from the potential letter’s author on News Talk 1037FM’s First News.