Peter Barsz Re-Appointed to State Tax Equalization Board (STEB)

Peter Barsz, pictured here with his wife Maria Wanenchak, outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol after his re-appointment to the State Tax Equalization Board.

 

Our own Peter Barsz has been re-appointed to the State Tax Equalization Board.

Senate Finance Committee Press Release
10/25/17, 10:00 a.m.
By Mike Howells, Pennsylvania Legislative Services

The committee met to consider nominations to the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB).

Sen. John McGarrigle (R-Delaware) introduced Peter Barsz and offered a brief professional history of the nominee. Barsz presented a personal statement and thanked members for consideration of his re-nomination to the State Tax Equalization Board for a second term.

Chairman Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) thanked Barsz for his continuing service and asked in general terms for recommendations for the General Assembly to help improve the board do its work. Barsz remarked they are becoming much more automated and working with Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) technology staff to be able to access county data to get their own product out more quickly. From a personnel side, he noted they are down several auditing staff which is something that could be addressed. Chairman Hutchinson noted they have empaneled a reassessment task force to improve uniformity of operations among counties, and appreciated STEB working as part of that effort.

Minority Chairman John Blake (D-Lackawanna) echoed the chairman’s remarks regarding Barsz’s suitability for the post and said he looks forward to working further on the previously noted issues.

Sen. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery) asked for an overview of what STEB does. Barsz explained they create market values of every municipality in the commonwealth, and also create common level ratios utilized for each one of the counties in the state, mainly for the purpose of reassessments.

Sen. Haywood inquired what parts of the board’s work remains un-automated. Barsz said the gathering of sales data in each county is not always automated or possible to download. He said DCED has helped design software portals to help facilitate that, however. Barsz also noted the board recently voted to put their manuals online for electronic consumption.

Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) thanked Barsz for being an important resource to lawmakers. He said STEB is one of the most “behind the scenes organizations” in the state whose visibility does not come close to matching its impact.

Sen. Browne noted some action by legislators this year may require an adjustment over time to data relevant to the city and school district of Philadelphia in line with their most recent assessment, with the goal of doing it incrementally rather than all at once. He suggested it may be worthwhile to see if any other such anomalies exist around the state so that they may be properly accounted for. Barsz reported the board’s executive director is in attendance and offered to discuss the matter further.

The nomination of Peter Barsz was unanimously reported with a favorable recommendation.

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) introduced Daniel Guydish and offered remarks on his behalf, crediting in particular his “rich and diverse” work experience and respect for local taxpayers. Guydish discussed his 17 years on the board and lauded its newest executive director as well as long-term staff who make up a “core group of people” at STEB.

Chairman Blake praised Guydish’s work over the course of his tenure at the board and said he looks forward to his continued service.

Sen. Haywood asked about the large number of local governments in the commonwealth and how it impacts what STEB does. Guydish noted the county-city government relationships in the south seems to be very efficient, comprising something of a super-regional governing authority. He said trying to take away local power becomes an impossible task and even trying to regionalize services is difficult, as people are reticent to give up local authority.

Sen. Haywood asked for an assessment of the cost associated with the number of local governments in Pennsylvania in the context of STEB’s work. Guydish said local governments often wind up with a lot of duplication in services, from fire trucks to administrative staff. Consolidation would make for more effective and efficient government, he contended, and would make the job of assessing at a county level considerably more straightforward.

Sen. Browne offered a suggestion given Guydish’s seniority he consider taking the lead on work to improve the visibility of the board. He contended that given efforts to rework systems that distribute dollars in the education space, all founded on the work of the board, it is really hard in that discussion to gain a level of confidence by those who look at the formulas and what is driven out to know that it is accurate. He said in part that may be due to the board’s relative obscurity, and said the more people who know the board and what it does, the more confidence there will be in its work and what he said is the “bedrock” of funding formulas. Guydish said this is an excellent suggestion and noted work to put their work online is a step in that direction.

The nomination of Daniel Guydish was unanimously reported with a favorable recommendation.

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