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School board to bring Pa. tax act to public meeting

March 07, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, PA. - Act 72, the new school property tax relief law that school districts can opt into, is "so complex," Greencastle-Antrim Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said, "that it's almost impossible to implement."

Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have until May 30 to decide if they want to take on the plan or keep things as they are.

Greencastle-Antrim School Board members scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday in the elementary school gymnasium to explain the law and its ramifications.

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Rearick said he is hoping for a good turnout.

"Act 72 has been described as the single greatest change in the operation of public schools in Pennsylvania since the advent of collective bargaining in the 1970s," Rearick said in prepared remarks.

The law is designed to bring real estate tax relief to homeowners through a one-tenth of 1 percent increase in their earned or personal income tax.

That slight increase, plus an as yet-undetermined share of the money Pennsylvania expects to take in from its new slot machines, is supposed to make up the revenue lost through the reduction in real estate taxes.

"This complex law changes how school districts develop and fund budgets," Rearick said.

Under Act 72, local school budgets have to be submitted to the state by the middle of January, about five months before state revenue figures are set.

The act will not increase revenue for the school districts. It could, however, reduce real estate taxes because renters, not just property owners, also would be paying to support schools through increased earned income taxes, Rearick said.

Also, with few exceptions, taxpayers could decide through referendum if they want to raise taxes above an annual tax index, which controls tax increases for that year.

Additional information on Act 72 can be found on the school district's Web site at www.greencastle.k12.pa.us. Residents also can comment on the change by sending e-mail to act72@greencastle.k12.pa.us.

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