Pa. Rep. Tony DeLuca asks state to deny Penn Hills School District its tax increase request |
Penn Hills

Pa. Rep. Tony DeLuca asks state to deny Penn Hills School District its tax increase request

Michael DiVittorio

State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, has asked the state Department of Education to deny a request by Penn Hills School District officials to raise real estate taxes beyond state restrictions.

“I am asking you to deny this request and require the school district to reduce the tax-rate increase to no more than the index, or require it to submit a referendum question for voter approval in the next election,” DeLuca said via press release. “The Act 1 index was deliberately put in statute to limit excessive tax increases, and it should be allowed to serve its purpose as designed.”

State Department of Education placed the district in financial recovery status in January and will appoint a recovery officer to take over district finances sometime this month.

The index is a state formula that limits tax hikes without first seeking permission from voters to do so. The district plans to seek exceptions that the state allows in order to exceed that cap without a voter referendum. In Penn Hills’ case, it’s for pension and special education costs.

School board members approved advertising its 2019-20 preliminary budget with the tax plan Jan. 28. It is posted online at The board will consider passing it Feb. 19.

The state’s tax cap for Penn Hills, which is tied to an inflation formula, would restrict Penn Hills’ millage increase to 0.9172-mill. That would be an increase of almost 3.2 percent.

The millage rate, should the exceptions be granted, would spike from 28.6646 mills to 30.5818 mills. That’s an increase of 1.9172-mills, or 6.7 percent.

The proposed new rate would amount to the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 paying about $192 more in taxes next school year.

Even with the proposed tax hike, the district still needs to close an estimated $8 million deficit.

DeLuca said Friday the district should put the proposed tax hike on the ballot as a referendum and let the residents vote on it.

“They can make their case to the voters,” he said. “I’m sure everybody knows how important education is, but you can’t continue to tax the residents of this community. Before you know it, no one’s going to be moving in to this community.”

He said he plans to introduce legislation that would have any school district that seeks Act 1 exceptions for a third straight year, which Penn Hills plans to do, put the issue up for a public vote.

“I’m not trying to hurt the school district,” DeLuca said. “They know they’re on shaky grounds with their budget process. Everybody’s got to live within their means.”

School Board President Erin Vecchio, who lost to DeLuca in last year’s Democratic Party primary for the senator’s seat, encouraged the long-time legislator to seek state grants and not denials.

“I think this letter is a joke,” Vecchio said Friday evening. “He does this every year when the school district asks for a tax increase.

”Nobody on the board wants this tax increase. We need it to fix the problems so we can educate the kids the way they need to be educated and not put people out of their houses. Get us the money that we need to get out of the hole that we are put in.”

The district received a $2 million state grant in 2017 and again last year to help with its financial struggles.

It is more than $172 million in debt, largely due to the construction of a new high school and elementary school.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Penn Hills
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.