Courthouse office to collect applications in Fayette By Joe Abramowitz TRIBUNE-REVIEW Residents of Fayette County who own a house and live in it can begin applying for property tax breaks this week under the Homestead Exclusion Act.

The Fayette County Commissioners are expected to provide additional resources Thursday to handle applications for tax breaks offered under the act, which was approved by commonwealth voters in a recent referendum.

Applications will be submitted in the basement of the courthouse in Uniontown until March 15. The temporary office will be located in space formerly occupied by the county election bureau.

At an agenda session Monday, chief county assessor Jim Hercik requested approval for the addition of five temporary clerical workers, four phone lines, two computer stations with printers and computer software necessary to process the applications.

The temporary office likely will remain open until the end of April, according to Hercik, who added the county has received an $81,000 state grant to cover the operation. He said additional grants will be available in the future.

Eligible homeowners will not benefit from the act until the year after they apply.

However, the efforts of some homeowners and those of the county assessment office could be wasted if Fayette's five school districts do not buy into the program.

See also: Officials hope ads answer tax reform questions

Under the act, homeowners in participating school districts will receive discounted property tax bills. To make up for lost property tax revenue, school districts will have the power to hike the earned income tax rate up to 1.5 percent.

In addition, local boards of education will give up a measure of fiscal control. In participating districts, property tax rates cannot be increased beyond the cost-of-living rate without taxpayer approval in the form of a referendum.

Locally, the Uniontown Area School Board recently approved a program under the Homestead Exclusion Act. The Connellsville Area School Board has yet to act in any way.

"We're still trying to understand the law," said Connellsville School Director Mark Courtley

ęCopyright 1998 Tribune-Review Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

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