ShareThis Page

Act 1: Stop the school tax charade

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Act 1 became the law of the commonwealth with great fanfare in 2006. It was viewed as the long-overdue remedy to stop Pennsylvania's nearly 500 school districts from raising and raising (and raising) taxes, oftentimes far in excess of the inflation rate and without any timely public check.

But the joke continues to be on taxpayers.

The law caps annual school tax increases to the rate of inflation. And if districts want to raise taxes above that rate, they have to place a referendum on the ballot and seek voter approval. But Act 1 also allows a number of exemptions. If approved by the state, taxpayers can be bypassed. Among the exemptions are costs associated with health care, “maintaining revenue,” pensions, school construction and special education.

The joke is that so many of these exemptions routinely are rubber stamped. Yes, some requests are rejected, in part. But the state has proven to be a sympathetic and easy touch. And taxpayers are shafted repeatedly.

To wit, the state has allowed nearly one-third of the commonwealth's school districts to raise taxes for the 2014-15 school year in excess of this year's established inflation index of 2.1 percent. That's 164 districts.

Indeed, the number of exemptions granted has fallen for four consecutive years. But that's cold comfort for taxpayers still stung by a poor law.

The only solution to end this continuing charade remains as simple as it is powerful: All public school levies should be put to a public vote and on a regular basis — no ifs, ands, ors or exemptions.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.