The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved House Bill 1076, which has been sent to Governor Wolf for signature. House Bill 1076 provides two forms of tax relief for senior citizens. First, House Bill 1076 amends Act 1 of 2006 (the Taxpayer Relief Act) to permit claims for property tax or rent rebate for 2019 to be filed on or before December 31, 2020 instead of June 30, 2020. This portion of the bill also allows for such claims to be paid by the state lottery fund, if they are available.
The second form of property tax relief for senior citizens is the establishment of the Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange, or “STRIVE” for short. Under STRIVE, a school district may, but is not required to, create a program by which local senior citizens may volunteer their time and participate in programs which “enhance the academic program of a school district and provide a direct public benefit to the academic program of a school district.” Program participants, specifically defined as individuals who are at least sixty (60) years of age who have been a Pennsylvania resident for at least ninety (90) days and who own real property in a school district, may participate in the school district’s program and, in exchange, receive a tax credit against the school district property taxes which they owe. Under the guidelines of STRIVE, the school district must adopt specific program guidelines for the acceptance of participants, must establish a tax credit rate for each volunteer service hour provided (which cannot be less than the state’s minimum wage) which does not exceed the total amount of real property taxes owed, and is prohibited from discriminating against any participants based on their status as a member of a protected class, such as race, age, disability, etc. Additionally, participating school districts must ensure that their programs do not replace or supplant existing job positions in a school district. School districts are authorized to seek private and public funding sources to support a program.
The STRIVE program allows a school district to utilize the services and knowledge of its senior citizens to enhance its academic programs while, in exchange, affording tax relief to those senior citizens. The provisions of House Bill 1076 are written broadly, and so long as a school district complies with the aforementioned requirements the district has wide latitude to create an exchange program that fits the needs of the school district and the community. Our school law attorneys can assist your district in creating these programs, as well as advising you on any other school related matters.