Public panels could help shape tax structures for districts

August 16, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A new Pennsylvania law provides for taxation with representation in requiring school districts to seek public input on their tax structures.

Under Act 1 of 2006, the state's 501 school districts have been told to form panels of five, seven or nine people to recommend if or how the burden of property taxes should be shifted to income taxes.

The panels are supposed to be a group of taxpayers or residents with socioeconomic positions, ages and occupations that reflect the district's composition as a whole. They will spend three months examining how taxes are currently levied, assessed and collected, then form a report on how it should be done in the future.

By the end of the year, they will take those reports to the school boards, which reserve the right to reject the recommendations.


Despite that caveat, several residents of Franklin County, Pa., have already volunteered their time and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is encouraging more to do the same.

"The tax study commission initiative presents a unique opportunity for citizens to provide advice to their school districts at an important level. The recommendations made by these commissions will be significant for school boards as they work to implement this new law," PSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said in a news release.

The school boards started forming their panels this month.

"They need to be named by Sept. 14," Tuscarora (Pa.) School Board President Jane Rice said.

One member of the panel also can be a school board member, but the panels cannot have members who are school officials or employees. They also cannot be relatives of officials or employees.

"The commission should represent the community cross section," Waynesboro (Pa.) Superintendent Barry Dallara said.

"We're trying to select individuals that fit into that to give them the spread they want," Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) Business Manager Richard Lipella said.

"The state has left the composition and size pretty much open," Tuscarora Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said.

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