Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pick your poison

The General Assembly is considering a referendum that would ask Pa. voters to approve hikes in state sales and income taxes in order to lower local property taxes. School districts would receive a portion of the revenues generated to reduce property taxes on a dollar-for-dollar basis, according to the Post-Gazette.

The flaw with this idea is that it treats the symptom, not the disease. Property taxes are high in many communities because the tax base is too low to properly fund local schools. So while it would be good for obscenely overtaxed communities like Wilkinsburg to be able to lower real estate taxes (ignoring for the moment the regressive nature of sales and income taxes) you're not doing anything to address the core problem, which is that many communities can't afford to operate their schools. One possible solution is to use the extra money generated by the state tax increases to raise the state's share of education funding, thus giving taxpayers in poorer communities--and those with few commercial properties--a real shot at long-term tax relief.

I'm just thinking out loud here. But I don't think this proposal is going to cut it.


Blogger djhlights said...

I still wonder why if the problem with funding of schools is a problem because certain municipalities can't afford them and others can why not go to a countywide system similar to the one they have in Virginia and other states. Fairfax County public schools are some of the top schools in the country. The county itself has a very diverse makeup economically and they still can provide good schools for all.

If the problem is poorer municipalities are over taxing the remaining base they have and others have more than enough why not widen the pot in order to accommodate all and even out the taxes that people have to pay.

7:06 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You certainly are not the first person to advocate countywide school systems. Local control is a very deeply rooted principle in this state--the reason we have so many municipalities as well. At one time there were more than 2,000 school districts in Pa.--in the late 60s and early 70s, they were consolidated, and now we have 501.

The other problem is that the districts that benefit from the present arrangement--places like Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair--would fight like hell to maintain the status quo. In terms of changing the system for funding schools, most states that tackle it do so only after being ordered by a court.

9:12 PM


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