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Tax question to be on ballot in Waynesboro

March 14, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Voters in the Waynesboro Area School District will be asked whether they want to raise the earned income tax by seven-tenths of a percent, courtesy of a school board decision made Tuesday.

The revenue would be used to create a $309 property tax reduction for district property owners.

Waynesboro's latest public hearing regarding Act 1 of 2006 turned into yet another impassioned debate about merits of the law, with board member Leland Lemley singling out a new resident to make his case.

"The only way and best way to get the information out to the public is to debate someone," Lemley said. "I can't debate with the people around this (board room) table because I think everyone is in agreement with me."

He encouraged the nine residents in attendance to vote down the proposal and tell their neighbors to do the same.

Saying she doesn't care what voters decide, board member K. Marilyn Smith told the public to "get out there and tell people what they're actually doing" in order to glean educated votes.

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If the earned income tax increase passes, homeowners with a household income of $20,000 would save $169 on their overall tax bill, according to figures provided by the district. However, homeowners with a household income of $120,000 would pay an additional $531, the figures show.

The "break-even" household income is about $45,000, Business Manager Caroline Dean said. The average household income in the school district is slightly more than $50,000, she said.

A portion of property tax reductions is supposed to be funded with gaming revenue, although Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently said that revenue might not be available as soon as expected.

Lemley in what he eventually termed "passive militancy" told the board to deny putting a question on ballots, despite the understanding that an outside party would be forced to do so at the school district's expense.

"It would give legs to the discussion," Lemley said.

Lemley was the only dissenting vote in an 8-1 decision to place the question on ballots in the May primary election.

Several board members said putting the .7 percent increase on ballots gives legitimacy and credit to the public tax study commission that spent the last three months of 2006 developing that proposal.

"If we don't put it on the ballot, we're disenfranchising all the voters who would vote in favor of it," board member Stanley Barkdoll said.

Residents who spoke during Tuesday's public hearing expressed concerns about Act 1's negative impact on renters (who could pay additional income tax, while not receiving the real estate tax break), while also touting its benefits to senior citizens who might not have income to tax.

"By doing this, we're going to save some (older) people from losing their houses," said Dick Rose, of West Fifth Street in Waynesboro.




Ballot question



The following is a question that will appear on ballots in the May primary election in the Waynesboro Area School District. The wording might change slightly.

"Do you favor the Waynesboro Area School District imposing an additional .7% earned income tax? The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be used to reduce school district taxes on qualified residential properties by an estimated $309. The current school district earned income tax rate is .5%."

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