From contributors Jim Hale, Vanessa Pellechio, Mary Grace Keller, Holly Fletcher, and Tom Fontana, Gettysburg Times
A bill that would virtually eliminate school property taxes is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Gettysburg Area School District Business Manager Brad Hunt told his board Tuesday.
Hunt is one of many local school officials who are sounding alarms about the proposal, which would increase state income and sales taxes. On the other hand, proponents such as local state Rep. Rich Alloway, R-33, say it would help seniors on fixed incomes.
“We believe, in total, that taxpayers will pay more. We do not know what the dollar amounts will be,” Bermudian Springs School District Business Manager Justin Peart said Thursday in an interview.
“Total control over funding for public schools being put in the legislation’s hands is scary,” Peart said.
Various local officials argued the bill would: shift more of the tax burden onto low-income individuals and away from businesses; remove local control of school finances; leave districts with insufficient operating funds; move funds to urban districts; redirect casino revenue now used to offset property taxes; and increase residents’ federal income taxes by eliminating property tax deductions.
The proposed Property Tax Independence Act would reportedly replace property tax revenue by increasing the state personal income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 4.75 percent, hiking the state sales tax rate from 6 percent to 7 percent, and applying the sales tax to many items that are currently exempt.
The proposal would also permit school districts to keep collecting
“If done correctly to our benefit, we should be for it,” Gettysburg Area School Board member Bill Hewitt said during Tuesday’s board meeting, adding that he was in contact with State Rep. Dan Moul, R-91, who has a goal of getting the same amount of money evenly distributed to every student in the state.
“Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) will be introducing a bill similar to Senate Bill 76 of the previous session, and is pushing for the Senate to consider it immediately. It has been suggested there is enough support to pass the bill and send it to the House for a vote,” according to an email the Pennsylvania School Boards Association sent to members.
The bill would be “extremely detrimental” to the district, Hunt told the Gettysburg board.
If it is similar to what was previously proposed a year and a half ago, and based on what has been heard through “word of mouth,” it would cause the district to lose nearly half of its budget, except what is covered by “outstanding long-term debt,” he said.
The district’s income would be subject to the state’s income with “much, much less local input,” Hunt said, and “half” the money to replace the real estate tax would be distributed to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Hunt said residents would be required to pay more in sales tax and personal income tax with the tax burden shifting from businesses to the working class and from nonresidents to residents.