Real Reform

  • Property tax reform would be accomplished if the state adequately funded public education AND controlled and/or funded at appropriate levels the many unfunded and underfunded mandates it places on schools. Property tax rates here in Elizabethtown would be substantially lower if the Commonwealth prioritized education in its budget and funded schools at the level in which other states do. While Pennsylvanians perceive that they pay significant property taxes, the Independent Fiscal Office did an analysis and the Commonwealth is slightly below the United States average. Key reform initiatives are as follows:

    • Adequately fund public education. EASD’s real estate tax rate reflects a large portion of costs that are out of the District’s control.
      • Example: if EASD raised taxes each year to the state index (which we DO NOT), our revenue stream increases by around $997,000. State-mandated PSERS costs alone on the other hand have increased by a range of $600,000-$1,000,000 (net) in some years or nearly all of the maximum possible tax increase.
    • Pension Reform: State-mandated pension costs that have increased by 625% in the past 11 years and account for 12.5% of EASD’s budget.
    • Eliminate prevailing wage mandate. State-mandated prevailing wage on school construction projects has added millions of dollars to construction and renovation projects, which in turn increases debt service and the annual budget. Prevailing wage can increase school construction project costs by 30%.
    • Adequately fund special education. Special education funding has increased by $187,000 or an average of $16,600 a year in 11 years while the number of students receiving services and the number of state-mandates has increased.
    • Treat cyber and charter schools as private schools. Cyber and charter schools are not treated as private schools and as such school district lose a portion of their state subsidy to pay for students enrolled in such schools. 

     In conclusion, lack of adequate funding from the state coupled with state-mandated costs is the issue, not property taxes. Maintaining local control is essential to quality school systems, which in turn help sustain viable communities and property values. Supporting legislation that removes local control is a mistake and will lead to substandard school systems and a growing funding gap between state-generated revenue and school budgets.