Proposal to eliminate property tax worries school districts

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There’s a legislative push to eliminate property taxes and fund schools in a different way, but local school districts including Cumberland Valley give the plan an F.

At a Cumberland Valley School Board meeting Monday night, fists pounded in opposition to a proposal from state legislators to eliminate the property tax that funds schools.

“We would be left here really making some very difficult choices for our children with little control of what we have,” Superintendent Fred Withum said.

Right now, a total $14 billion generated from property taxes goes to Pennsylvania’s school districts. If those taxes were taken away, schools would still need the money.

The proposal suggests an increase and expansion in the sales tax and higher personal income taxes. All of that money would go directly to the state, which would then divide it up to individual schools.

“Which will spread it across all Pennsylvanians,” state Sen. John DiSanto (R-Perry/Dauphin) said.

DiSanto supports legislation to eliminate the property tax. A measure failed to pass last year, but Republicans say they’ll reintroduce it soon.

“Older Pennsylvanians, younger families, the real estate business will all benefit from it,” DiSanto said.

He says it provides relief, especially for older homeowners without children or grandchildren in school. In exchange, the proposal estimates a one or two percent increase in income and sales taxes, which supporters say will go to poorer school districts.

“Our rural students deserve as good an education as everybody else,” DiSanto said.

He has high hopes for the bill to pass this time, now that the state has a more conservative Legislature.

But fellow Republican Greg Rothman has reservations.

“To ask the state to determine who’s going to get the money is dangerous,” he said.

Rothman represents the ever-growing 87th district, also known as Cumberland Valley.

“It’s one of the best districts in the state, even the country,” Rothman said. “They don’t want the state to mess with their formula.”

“Through local control, our board has made good, sound fiscal decisions that have resulted in an even per-pupil cost during a time where we face those challenges,” Withum said, referring to a 1,000 more students moving into the district in the past five years.

The proposal to eliminate property taxes is already a discussion at school board meetings. Legislators say it’s coming to the Capitol soon.

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