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Chambersburg School Board must seat tax panel of 9

August 10, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Chambersburg School Board is looking for nine people to serve on a tax study commission to make recommendations on tax shifting for voters to consider in a May 2007 primary referendum - and it needs them in a hurry.

Pennsylvania's latest version of school property tax reform, Act 1, will compel the state's 501 school districts to recommend to voters how - and how much - taxes should be shifted from real estate to an earned income tax or a broader personal income tax. School districts have until Sept. 14 to appoint a commission, which must make its recommendations no later than Dec. 13.

The recommendations of the commission, if approved by voters next spring, become effective July 1, 2007, said Business Manager Rick Vensel. The board has just two scheduled meetings set before the Sept. 14 deadline to appoint a commission, Vensel told the board.

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The commission is supposed to study the district's tax structure, recommend an increase in the earned income tax or creation of a personal income tax and draft the specific language of a ballot question, Vensel said. The law allows the board the option of selecting a five-, seven- or nine-member commission and the board and reached a consensus on nine.

The board also decided that eligible residents of the district can submit their names to be on the commission and that board members may also make recommendations. Board President Craig Musser set an Aug. 22 deadline for applications, the day before the next school board meeting.

The language of Act 1 allows only one board member to serve on the commission and requires that it reflect the "social, economic, age and occupation diversity of the school district to the extent possible." That may include various income levels, business owners, retirees, homeowners, renters and farmers, among others.

Other than the board member, commission members may not be an employee or official of the district or a relative, "which I think will eliminate quite a few people," Vensel said.

The definition of relative, Vensel said, runs from "father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife" all the way to "uncle, or aunt by blood, marriage or adoption."

Even though the referendum will not be until May, Vensel said Act 1 also requires the district to have its 2007-08 budget prepared by January, though state education funding figures are not available until the spring.

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