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May/June 2012

Inside This Issue:


Research Evaluates Pennsylvania Hotel Room Rental Tax
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has released the report, An Evaluation of Strategies and Finances of the Rural Tourism Industry, which details recent research that examined the history, implementation and uses of the Hotel Room Rental Tax in Pennsylvania’s 3rd through 8th Class counties.

The Hotel Room Rental Tax, enacted in the commonwealth in 2000, allows 4th through 8th Class counties to levy a room rental tax of 3 percent for convention and tourism promotion, with a percentage allocated directly to the designated single- or multi-county Tourist Promotion Agency (TPA). Counties are allowed to retain a portion of the tax money for administrative purposes. The tax provisions were further altered by amendments to the Pennsylvania County Code in 2005, which required the TPAs to file an annual report and more clearly defined the concept of tourism promotion.

Research background
The research involved case study interviews with the chief executive officers of three TPAs from different regions of the state; a survey of all 45 TPAs representing the state’s 3rd through 8th Class counties; and an examination of financial records of all 4th through 8th Class counties employing the room tax for 2006 through 2010.

Study results
The case study interviews revealed the importance of the hotel room rental tax to the operating budgets of the TPAs, especially with the elimination of state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) grant money in fiscal year 2012; and some issues with the county-retained portion of tax dollars, including requests for additional donations or the existence of negotiated agreements whereby the TPA turns money, which is above the legislated percentages, back to the counties.

The survey data also showed a heavy reliance on the hotel room tax by the TPAs.

The analysis of the county-level data for 2006-2010 confirmed the importance of the room tax receipts as a source of income for the TPAs. In 2010, a total of more than $19.7 million in room tax receipts was collected across all 4th though 8th Class counties. These receipts averaged $402,906. Tax receipts showed a decline from 2008-2009, highlighting the susceptibility of this revenue source to economic downturns.

Given the importance of tourism to Pennsylvania’s economy and the significant amount of revenue generated by the room tax for the TPAs, the researcher offered several policy considerations including the following: continue to leverage existing tourism promotion funding through regional partnerships to support multi-county advertising, website development and event planning; consider requiring state-level reporting of room tax revenues, preferably through DCED county final tax reports; consider handling the county room tax like any other sales tax, which would entail businesses turning the revenue over to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue on a quarterly basis; amend legislation to prohibit additional fees or agreements for 4th through 8th Class counties; strengthen the 4th though 8th Class counties’ ability to punish establishments that fail to remand room taxes in a timely fashion; enforce reporting requirements in the existing legislation; and reestablish some type of competitive grant process for special tourism promotion projects at the local level.

For a copy of the report, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Chairman's Message
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania serves as a “one stop shop” for fact-based and balanced research on rural trends and conditions. Regularly, this research is used and referenced by members of the state General Assembly, as well as state and local municipal officials throughout Pennsylvania and even across the nation. There’s no question that sound decision making, at all levels of government, occurs best when people are educated about the issues, understand the cause and effect factors, and can compromise on suitable or appropriate solutions. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has consistently provided valuable input in this regard.

While research and factual data serve a purpose in the public policy arena, it is also extremely beneficial for state, regional and local government officials to leave the confines of an office and see first-hand what is happening in our communities.

This past January, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania hosted a ‘listening session’ in Dushore, Sullivan County, to hear from state and local elected officials, members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB), area businesses and local residents regarding issues surrounding stream cleaning in the wake of recent flooding across Pennsylvania.

As a result of this listening session, on April 5, members of the Center Board and the PFB hosted a stream tour in Lycoming and Sullivan counties that included Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources Secretary Michael Krancer and Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary George Greig. More information on that tour can be found below.

Additionally, on April 11, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania also conducted a public hearing in Wysox, Bradford County, to obtain input from local stakeholders on the opportunities and challenges associated with providing natural gas service to local rural commercial and residential customers. More information from that hearing is available at www.rural.palegislature.us/natural_gas_extension_hearing_highlights.html.

The Center board, staff and I will continue to work with executive branch agencies, industry representatives, and local constituencies to identify practical options and solutions to these and other challenges. As needed, the research and rural database resources offered by the Center can be called upon to go beyond the information at hand and develop additional detailed documentation that can assist in making informed policy decisions. 

As always, we’ll be sure to keep you informed of any actions resulting from these and future listening sessions.

Senator Gene Yaw

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Center Board Hosts DEP, Ag Secretaries on Stream Tour
On April 5, Senator Gene Yaw, chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, hosted Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary George Greig and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael Krancer on a tour of portions of northeastern Pennsylvania to survey the stream and property damage sustained during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. The tour was a follow up to the Stream Cleaning Listening Session conducted by the Center in January.

Representative Garth Everett, center board member, Representative Tina Pickett, and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau also hosted the tour, which also sought to highlight the importance of an improved stream cleaning program in the commonwealth. 

“As a result of the flooding that occurred last September, it became apparent that a lot of the damage sustained was caused by not having our streams properly maintained,” Yaw said. “The goal of this tour was to raise awareness and emphasize the need for stream cleaning.”

The tour began in Montoursville and headed north along Rt. 87 in Lycoming County. The tour also included portions of Sullivan County.

“I thought it was extremely important to bring Secretary Krancer and Secretary Greig to the region to see the devastation first-hand and highlight the importance of cleaning out our streams on a continued basis,” Yaw said.

Left to right: Sen. Gene Yaw, Center board chairman; DEP Secretary Michael Krancer; Joel Rotz of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau; and Richard Snyder of Snyder’s Farm, Montoursville.
Left to right: Sen. Gene Yaw, Center board chairman; DEP Secretary Michael Krancer;
Joel Rotz of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau; and Richard Snyder of Snyder’s Farm, Montoursville.

Left to right: Sen. Yaw; Department of Ag Secretary George Greig; Rep. Garth Everett, Center board member; and Sec. Krancer.
Left to right: Sen. Yaw; Department of Ag Secretary George Greig;
Rep. Garth Everett, Center board member; and Sec. Krancer.


Pictured above: Uprooted trees, gravel bars and excessive
build up of debris are some of the still-visible damages
from the 2011 floods.


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Rural Snapshot: Adults Without a High School Diploma
In 2010, an estimated 343,798 rural Pennsylvania adults, or 11 percent of the rural adult population, did not have a high school diploma, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS). The percentage among urban Pennsylvania adults was also 11 percent as an estimated 649,118 adults, or those 20 years old and older, did not have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

 Nationally, an estimated 30.3 million adults, or 14 percent of the adult population, did not have a high school diploma in 2010. The three states with the largest percentages of adults without a high school diploma were California, Mississippi and Texas, each with 18 percent or more. The three states with the smallest percentages were Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming. In each of these states, 8 percent or less of adults did not have a high school diploma.

Among all 50 states, Pennsylvania ranked 31st in the percentage of adults without a high school diploma.

For a closer look at Pennsylvania adults without a high school diploma or equivalent, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed the 2010 ACS-PUMS data, and excluded all persons living in group quarters, such as prisons or nursing homes.

Demographic Characteristics
Among rural adults without a diploma, 50 percent were male and 50 percent were female. Among rural adults with a high school diploma or higher, 49 percent were male and 51 percent were female.

Rural adults without a high school diploma are, on average, older than those with a high school diploma or higher. The average age of rural adults without a high school diploma was 58 and the average age of those with a high school diploma or higher was 49.

A slightly higher percentage of rural minorities (14 percent) did not have a high school diploma than white/non-Hispanics (11 percent). Rural minorities without a high school diploma were also younger (46 years old), on average, than white/non-Hispanics (59 years old) without a high school diploma.

Forty-nine percent of rural adults without a high school diploma were married compared to 59 percent of rural adults with a high school diploma or higher. Adults without a high school diploma were more likely to be widowed (19 percent) compared to those with a high school diploma or higher (7 percent). 

Eighteen percent of those without a high school diploma have never been married compared to 21 percent of those with a high school diploma or higher. Both groups, however, had similar percentages of adults who were divorced and separated (14 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

Rural adults without a high school diploma were more than twice as likely to have a disability as adults with a high school diploma or higher (38 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

Among rural females aged 20 to 50 years old without a high school degree, 10 percent gave birth from 2009 to 2010. Their average age was 27 and 66 percent were married. Among rural females with a high school diploma or higher, 5 percent gave birth from 2009 to 2010. Their average age was 30 and 72 percent were married. 

More rural householders without a high school diploma lived alone than those with a high school diploma or higher (38 percent and 26 percent, respectively). Fewer rural householders without a high school diploma had children (17 percent) than householders with a high school diploma or higher (27 percent).

Employment Characteristics
Sixty-five percent of rural adults without a high school diploma were not in the labor force. These individuals did not work because of a disability, retirement, or they were no longer actively looking for work for some other reason. Among the 35 percent who were in the labor force, 85 percent were employed and 15 percent were unemployed. In comparison, 68 percent of adults with a high school diploma or higher were in the labor force and 8 percent were unemployed.

Among rural adults without a high school diploma who were employed, 53 percent worked full-time (35 or more hours per week) and year-round (50 or more weeks per year). Sixty-three percent of rural adults with a high school diploma or higher worked full-time and year-round.

The top three employers among rural adults without a high school diploma were manufacturing (17 percent), the construction industry (15 percent) and retail (14 percent). 

The majority of rural adults without a high school diploma who were employed (87 percent) drove to work, less than 1 percent used public transportation, 5 percent walked or rode a bicycle, 2 percent used other means, and 6 percent worked at home. The average commute time for these workers was 25 minutes. Rural adults with a high school diploma or higher had the same average commute time.

Income and Poverty
The estimated median income for rural householders without a high school diploma was $22,772. The estimated median income for rural householders with a high school diploma or higher was $48,447.

The poverty rate for rural adults without a high school diploma was 22 percent, while adults with a high school diploma or higher was 10 percent. The poverty rate for female rural adults without a high school diploma was 24 percent and the rate for males was 19 percent. In addition, those under 40 years older had a higher poverty rate (36 percent) than those 40 years old and older (18 percent). Rural adults without a high school diploma who were employed had a lower poverty rate (14 percent) than those who were unemployed (39 percent) and those who were not in the labor force (24 percent).

Summary
Rural adults without a high school diploma are generally older and more likely to have a disability than adults with a high school diploma or higher. Adults without a high school diploma were less likely to be married and have children in the household than adults with a diploma. 

Adults without a high school diploma were more likely to not be in the labor force than adults with a high school diploma or higher. And adults without a high school diploma who are in the labor force were more likely to be unemployed.

There is a significant income gap between householders with and without a high school diploma: adults with a diploma or higher had twice the median household income as those without a diploma. The poverty rate was also twice as large for adults without a high school diploma as it was for adults with a high school diploma or higher.

Rural and Urban Adults/Householders With and Without a High School Diploma, 2010

Data source: 2010 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample, U.S. Census Bureau

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Rural Pennsylvania Becoming More Racially, Ethnically Diverse
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that rural Pennsylvania is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as the number of rural minorities increased 62 percent from 2000 to 2010. In 2010, minorities comprised 8 percent of the rural Pennsylvania population, compared to 5 percent in 2000.

The data show that rural minorities are generally younger and less likely to be married than rural white/non-Hispanics.

The data also show a sizeable gap in income, poverty rates and unemployment rates between rural minorities and rural white/non-Hispanics.

Understanding population change
To better understand the population changes that have occurred in rural Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2010, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 and 2010 decennial censuses and the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS). The Center defined a minority as a person who is non-white alone and/or Hispanic.
 
Findings
Number, Age, Gender
Of rural Pennsylvania’s 3.47 million residents, 260,254 residents, or 8 percent, were minorities in 2010. From 2000 to 2010, the number of rural minorities increased 62 percent. During this same period, the number of rural white/non-Hispanics decreased 1 percent.

From 2000 to 2010, the number of Hispanics in rural Pennsylvania more than doubled (108 percent). The next largest increase was among persons of two or more races (71 percent), followed by Asians at 55 percent and black/African Americans at 39 percent.

Among rural Pennsylvania minorities, there were significantly more males (55 percent) than females (45 percent). Among white/non-Hispanics, 49 percent were male and 51 percent were female.

In general, rural minorities were younger than white/non-Hispanics. In 2010, the estimated average age of minorities was 30 years old; among white/non-Hispanics the estimated average age was 41 years old.

Households
In 2010, the average rural minority household had 2.8 persons and the average rural white/non-Hispanic household had 2.4 persons. 

Among rural minority households in 2010, 41 percent were married couples; 25 percent were single persons; 16 percent were single parents (male or female, with no spouse present); 9 percent were mixed families, with no children or spouse present (related people living together); and the remaining 9 percent were other types of households. 

Employment
In 2010, 64 percent of rural adult minorities were in the labor force (either employed or looking for work). The labor force participation rate among white/non-Hispanic adults was 63 percent.

Sixty percent of employed adult rural minorities worked full-time and year-round and 68 percent of employed rural white/non-Hispanics worked full-time and year-round.

Fewer adult rural minorities were self-employed (5 percent) than white/non-Hispanics (9 percent). A higher percentage of minorities were employed by a for-profit company than white/non-Hispanics (72 percent and 68 percent, respectively). Both groups had the same proportion of those employed by nonprofits and government (22 percent).

The 2010 unemployment rate among adult rural minorities was 14 percent and among adult rural white/non-Hispanics was 9 percent.

Income and Poverty
In 2010, the median income for rural minority households was $38,189. For white/non-Hispanic households the median income was $45,343.

The poverty rate among rural minorities was 27 percent. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau calculated that a family of three with an income below $17,374 lived in poverty. For rural white/non-Hispanics, the poverty rate was 12 percent.

The rural minority poverty rate was especially high for children (31 percent), the unemployed (33 percent), and those who were divorced or separated (29 percent).

Fact sheet available
A more detailed fact sheet, Rural Pennsylvania Minority Population, is available by calling or emailing the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or by visiting www.rural.palegislature.us/publications_fact_sheets.html.

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Just the Facts: ILUVRRL
How creative can you be with seven letters or less?

For $20, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) allows vehicle owners to personalize their license plates but they can only use a combination of up to seven letters and numbers.

According to 2011 PennDOT data, a small percentage of Pennsylvania vehicle owners have been putting their creativity to the test, as about 275,000 cars, trucks, and motorcycles are sporting personalized, or “vanity,” plates.

PennDOT data show that, in 2011, nearly 74,200 rural vehicles had vanity plates, representing 2 percent of all registered vehicles in rural counties.

Among urban county registered vehicles, 200,800 vehicles, or 3 percent of all urban registered vehicles, sported vanity plates.

From 2000 to 2011, the number of rural vehicles with vanity plates increased 4 percent while the number of urban vehicles with vanity plates increased 6 percent.

The counties with the highest percentages of vanity plates were Dauphin and Cumberland. In each of these counties, 4 percent of registered vehicles had vanity plates. Armstrong, Clarion and Indiana counties had the lowest percentages of vehicles with vanity plates, each with 1 percent of registered vehicles.

Data collected by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators revealed that, in 2007, nearly 9.3 million vanity license plates, or 4 percent of all registered vehicles, were registered in the United States. Illinois, New Hampshire, and Virginia had the highest percentages of vehicles with vanity plates, each with 13 percent or more. The states with the lowest percentages were, Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas, each with less than 1 percent. Among all states, Pennsylvania ranked 31st in the percentage of vanity plates.

(Editor’s note: In case you’re wondering, ILUVRRL, vanity plate lingo for “I love rural," was still available at press time.)

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