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School tax cuts coming

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Property tax relief from gambling revenues is coming to some Valley homeowners later this year -- in lower school tax bills.

As our story and chart showed on Saturday, tax reductions for homeowners this year could range from $100 to $300 -- because casino players have been filling up the state coffers.

That is, if lawmakers in Harrisburg don't tinker with the state law passed several years ago.

Armstrong County school district property owners are in line for the greatest tax reductions in the Valley, about $300. Every homeowner within a school district gets the same reduction.

Of course, some Valley school boards have already passed preliminary budgets with tax increases for the new year that begins in July, which may offset reductions from gambling revenues. Several districts have costly renovation projects. So in those districts, taxes could go up, even with gambling revenue.

But the casino revenues should increase yearly. The money that districts will begin getting from the state in August is based on annual gambling revenues of $650 million. But that revenue is from only five of 14 casinos that are up and running.

Individual homeowners and school districts need to plan for these revenues.

Property owners must submit a homestead exemption form with their county to qualify. Most residents did so a few years ago after the law passed, but it's not a bad idea to check.

And some school business managers we talked to weren't aware of the gambling revenue they will get. The new revenue won't change millage rates -- since districts will reduce assessments.

But it will impact the tax bills that most districts mail out in July.

So it's time for homeowners and school officials to focus on how to implement these changes.

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