134th District State House candidate John Reynard admits he has been benefiting from a Homestead Property Tax Exemption for which he isn’t really eligible on a property he owns in Bethlehem.
The situation came to light following an accusation from the campaign of state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, the GOP candidate in the race.
Reynard, a Democrat, says he'll pay any back taxes he owes. He said the exemption comes to "a couple of hundred bucks."
Last week, Mackenzie leveled charges about Reynard's employment.
According to state law, the Homestead Exemption can only be used on properties that an owner actually lives in. Reynard rightfully applied for the exemption when he and his family lived in the Bethlehem home.
In 2009, the Reynards moved to Emmaus to live with and help care for Mrs. Reynard’s dying grandmother. Fast forward three years, and the Reynard family is still living in Emmaus and renting out the Bethlehem property.
In Northampton County, Homestead Exemptions automatically renew and it is up to the property owner to notify the county upon moving out so that the county knows the home no longer qualifies for the exemption. This is typically a non-issue when a home is sold and ownership is transferred.
In Reynard’s case, since he still owns the home, the burden was on him to have the exemption removed. Even though, at the time of his relocation to Bethlehem, Reynard filled out typical moving paperwork such as change of address forms with the post office, he says he simply forgot about the tax exemption.
“It wasn’t making a big difference in our taxes, to be honest,” Reynard said. “Just a couple of hundred bucks. I am not a career politician. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely.”
The illegal exemption was brought to light when Mackenzie distributed a press release and other documents to local media.
As soon as Reynard learned of the Mackenzie media release, he contacted the county tax office to have the exemption removed and find out how much he owes in back taxes and penalties. He said he is waiting for a tax bill from the county.
“I will pay what I owe, and that’s that,” he said. “I had no intent to defraud anyone. It sounds stupid, but that’s the truth.
“That’s my mistake and I will do what needs to be done to correct it,” Reynard said.
Mackenzie won a special election to fill the unexpired term of state Rep. Doug Reichley and is now competing for his first full term in office. Reichley is now a Lehigh County judge.
While the district skews Republican and Reynard's campaign doesn't even have a website yet, Mackenzie isn't taking the contest for granted and continues to criticize his challenger.
Reynard put forth his views on issues at a campaign forum Tuesday that Mackenzie did not attend.