A Resolution calling for the
Abolishment of the School Property Tax
A Resolution calling for the
Abolishment of the School Property Tax
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
Whereas the entire body of Article 9 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania defines Local Government it makes no mention of the School District as a body of Local Governance.
We declare that the Constitution provides for a taxing authority in local governance through county and municipality alone. There is no recognition of the school district or the school board as a governing body. By separating the school district from the control and oversight of our municipal and county government and by granting the non-governing body of the school district the authority of taxation our legislative body has exceeded the limitations placed on them by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In paraphrasing our Declaration of Independence:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of the People of Pennsylvania; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present body of the school district is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the people, their possessions and their property.
To prove this, let facts through the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be submitted.
Whereas, Article 1 Section 1 - Inherent Rights of Mankind states: All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
We declare that inherent rights do not come from government therefore no just body of government has the assumed right to deny us any of our inherent rights. John Locke argued in his Two Treatises of Government that political society existed for the sake of protecting "property", which he defined as a person's "life, liberty, and estate". In A Letter Concerning Toleration, he wrote that the magistrate's power was limited to preserving a person's "civil interest", which he described as "life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things". He declared in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding that "the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness".
Whereas Article 1 Section 2 - Political Powers states: All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.
We declare that our Constitution reaffirms the Declaration of Independence’s affirmation that just governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. While we agree with the necessity of funding our public school system, the manner in which this has been established has not been through the basis for the rule of law in the Commonwealth which is our Constitution. When a government grants itself the powers to apply taxation through a body that has no constitutional authority of taxation it does so without the consent of the people who have borne this burden out of a sense of duty rather than obligation to the rule of law. When that form of taxation exceeds the people’s ability to pay, the individual is denied power and control over their own property and all power is no longer inherent in the people but stolen from them and placed in the hands of their tax masters. According to John Locke, "The great chief end therefore, of Men uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property." He also said, "Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience,..." -- John Locke, 2nd Treatise of Government, 1690
Whereas, Article 1 Section 8 - Security From Searches and Seizures states: The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things shall issue without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation subscribed by the affiant.
We declare that no individual can feel secure when government can abuse taxation on their persons, houses, papers and possessions the way school property tax has been abused. When this abusive taxation comes through a non-governing body in the form of a school district that has been separated and removed from the controls of true local municipal or county government it is a usurpation of powers not intended in our form of government established through our Constitution. When taxation exceeds the rate of economic growth, which has been the continual practice of the school property tax, the requirement of taxation from the people becomes unreasonable. It denies the individual their sacred and inherent right to property. As John Adams warned “the moment that idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the Laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist."
Whereas Article 1 Section 9 - Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions states: In all criminal prosecutions the accused hath a right to be heard by himself and his counsel, to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to meet the witnesses face to face, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and in prosecutions by indictment or information, a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage; he cannot be compelled to give evidence against himself, nor can he be deprived of his life, liberty or property, unless by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land. The use of a suppressed voluntary admission or voluntary confession to impeach the credibility of a person may be permitted and shall not be construed as compelling a person to give evidence against himself.
We declare that the state has assumed an unlawful ownership of property not granted to them by the Constitution. When property is seized for delinquent school property taxation there is no due process afforded to the property owner. The property owner is then deprived of his property where guilt before innocence is an assumed position while treating the property owner as a common criminal because their income has not risen to meet a tax that exceeds the rate of inflation. When taxation exceeds a person’s ability to pay and it results in the theft of their property; when this taxation comes from a body that has no constitutional authority to tax; the criminal is not the sovereign citizen…the usurper is the body that is taxing them.
Whereas Article 1, Section 26 - No Discrimination by Commonwealth and Its Political Subdivisions states: Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.
We declare as James Madison said: "In a word as a man is said to have a right to his property he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties or his possessions." To this end the sovereign and inherent right to property is equally a civil right that no political subdivision or the Commonwealth has a right to deny and therefore is without the authority to do so.
Whereas Article 1, Section 10 - Initiation of Criminal Proceedings; Twice in Jeopardy; Eminent Domain states: Except as hereinafter provided no person shall, for any indictable offense, be proceeded against criminally by information, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service, in time of war or public danger, or by leave of the court for oppression or misdemeanor in office. Each of the several courts of common pleas may, with the approval of the Supreme Court, provide for the initiation of criminal proceedings therein by information filed in the manner provided by law. No person shall, for the same offense, be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall private property be taken or applied to public use, without authority of law and without just compensation being first made or secured.
We declare that the funding of our schools is a tax for public use. While we agree on the necessity of funding our schools, the manner in which this has been established through the school property tax has resulted in a tax levied by a non-governing body to provide for such public use and is now the majority of the source of education funding. The school property tax was implemented by mandate under Act 511 of 1965. Since this time the increases in this tax have far exceeded economic means resulting in the seizure of the property of Pennsylvanians. Once seized, that property is sold on auction where only mortgage debt and tax debt is considered. Homes are sold for a fraction of their assessed worth which is not "just compensation" to the rightful owner of the property. It is a system of taxation that protects the government’s assumed right to seize the property while ignoring their duty to protect the citizen’s inherent right to property. This therefore stands in violation of Article 1, Sections 1, 2, 3, 10 and 26 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Whereas Article 3 Section 14 - Public School System states: The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
And Whereas Article 3, Section 30 - Charitable and Educational Appropriations states: No appropriation shall be made to any charitable or educational institution not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth other than normal schools established by law for the professional training of teachers for the public schools of the State except by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each House.
And Whereas Article 3, Section 31 - Delegation of Certain Powers Prohibited states: The General Assembly shall not delegate to any special commission, private corporation or association, any power to make, supervise or interfere with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects, whether held in trust or otherwise, or to levy taxes or perform any municipal function whatever. Notwithstanding the foregoing limitation or any other provision of the Constitution, the General Assembly may enact laws which provide that the findings of panels or commissions, selected and acting in accordance with law for the adjustment or settlement of grievances or disputes or for collective bargaining between policemen and firemen and their public employers shall be binding upon all parties and shall constitute a mandate to the head of the political subdivision which is the employer or to the appropriate officer of the Commonwealth if the Commonwealth is the employer, with respect to matters which can be remedied by administrative action, and to the lawmaking body of such political subdivision or of the Commonwealth, with respect to matters which require legislative action, to take the action necessary to carry out such findings.
We declare that it is the state's responsibility to provide for our public school system and the public schools are to be under the absolute control of the Commonwealth for the purposes of funding for the necessary standards and requirements pertaining to education. The funding of these necessary functions of education must be both thorough and efficient. Any body established by our elected representatives must comply with the rule of law through the Constitution. The State Board of Education, being under the Executive Branch of our Commonwealth, should have no regulatory or legislative authority over the local schools without first taking each regulation through the General Assembly of elected representatives by recommendation as provided through our Constitution.
The levying of taxes via unfunded mandates and regulations through an appointed executive commission (the State Board of Education) applied through a non-governing body (the Local School District) interfering with our municipal taxes and governance is not allowed through limits placed in our Constitution. This has resulted in a system of taxation that has exceeded the economic means of its people while placing burdens on our true local forms of government through county and municipality. This has further resulted in cuts to the necessary functions of local governance through police, fire and safety personnel interfering with the operation of local government in the further protections to our property.
Whereas Article 6 Section 3 - Oath Of Office requires: Senators, Representatives and all judicial, State and county officers shall, before entering on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation before a person authorized to administer oaths. "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity." The oath or affirmation shall be administered to a member of the Senate or to a member of the House of Representatives in the hall of the House to which he shall have been elected. Any person refusing to take the oath or affirmation shall forfeit his office.
We declare the school property tax to be an unconstitutional tax and call for its immediate elimination.
Relief instead of reform is not an option. The entire structure of school funding through the unconstitutional application of the school property tax must be eliminated. It must be replaced with a system of taxation based on product and labor (sales and income) that is tied to inflationary and economic protections of those being taxed. Education funding, outside of local controls on building maintenance and new building construction, is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and each school district should be funded based upon their current educational needs with future spending capped by economic protections for the citizens of the Commonwealth. The funding for new buildings and the maintenance of those buildings should be the responsibility of the local community and the decisions on those projects must be placed firmly on the citizens in that community through voter referendum where they can give their consent by vote. All future mandates and regulations must be tied to the limitations of available revenue adjusted by economic measures so as not to place unnecessary burdens on those being taxed.
To this end we support the Property Tax Independence Act under House Bill and Senate Bill 76 as a way to move the school property tax under conformity to the Constitution while upholding the principle of the protections of our inherent rights to be the primary objective of our legislators. We also declare that any legislator who refuses to support such legislation is in violation of their oath of office and therefore unworthy to reside in that office under the oath they have sworn to uphold.