By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — One, two … 6,999, 7,000 …
An Easton, Pa. man, frustrated over property taxes, visited the local tax office and paid in dollar bills – all $7,143 of it.
One bill at a time.
Local news reports identify the man as Robert Fernandes of Forks Township.
The scene, posted on YouTube, has generated more than 15,600 views — in less than a week.
In the video, Fernandes carries a duffel bag filled with bundled bills, which he proceeds to stack on a counter. He brings doughnuts, offered to “anyone who is inconvenienced here today.”
The tax collector asks Fernandes if his protest should probably be directed elsewhere, toward the school board, maybe, which is in charge of setting property tax rates.
“I’m not doing this to make anybody’s life more difficult,” Fernandes tells the collector. “Unfortunately, I wish the same could be said, you know, for me and many others whose lives are more difficult for having to pay property taxes.”
Fernandes wants the tax collector to count every dollar bill. As Fernandes opines, the collector accepts checks from people paying in a more traditional manner.
“In the land of the free, which is supposedly where we live, you would expect that property rights were respected here,” he says, “and obviously they’re not because we are never truly property owners in this country. We are merely renters.”
Fernandes said he wanted to create the visual so “people can actually see how money is being taken from me.” He makes it clear it’s not voluntary – Fernandes says he’s paying out of the fear someone will take his house. He said he homeschools his children and doesn’t use the school system.
The collector, rather than count each bill, asks that, together, they make a trip to the bank. To Fernandes and his video team, this seems ironic.
“They take money from people and they can’t even count it,” Fernandes said.
Fernandes said the point of the exercise was to get people to think, not about tax rates, necessarily, but why property should be taxed in the first place.
Fernandes got a response, of sorts. In The Express-Times, a newspaper in the Lehigh Valley, the respective school superintendent said true reform should come from state lawmakers.
The discussion is a perennial one, and this fall legislative session will be no different.
A proposal from Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, would allow schools to decide whether they want to move away from property taxes and institute other taxes on income or businesses to make up the difference. Proposals such as the Property Tax Independence Act would create a statewide shift from school property taxes to increases in sales and income taxes.
The latter idea has widespread support among taxpayer advocates in Pennsylvania, who will head to the Capitol on Sept. 24 to rally for it.
Contact Melissa Daniels at [email protected]