Residents get facts on Act 1

April 06, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - About a dozen residents attended an informational presentation Thursday about Pennsylvania's Act 1 of 2006 that generated plenty of questions.

"Who in the world came up with that?" one woman asked as the presenter discussed the factors by which the state plans to allocate gaming revenue.

In other cases, the dozen people in attendance seemingly formed strong opinions about Act 1's caveats, with one man renaming it the "Philadelphia Salvage Act" in criticism to its special provisions to the city.

Act 1 distributes revenue from Pennsylvania's new slots parlors, takes property tax increases above an inflationary index to voters for approval and gives voters the option of further cutting their property taxes by increasing income taxes.


"Act 1 gives local voters a voice," said Tim Kelsey, a Penn State University professor of agricultural economics. Kelsey presented Act 1's reasoning, history, funding sources, eligibility requirements and effects at a Penn State Cooperative Extension public meeting.

"In the May primary, you will face a ballot question and be asked 'yes' or 'no.' ... Do you want to raise the income tax a little bit in the school district for a larger tax break than you get from the state?" Kelsey said.

Bill Hymes of Fayetteville, Pa., said Kelsey did "a great job" explaining the law, but Hymes has concerns that a large percentage of voters will arrive at the polls uneducated about Act 1.

"People will vote against something they don't understand," Hymes said.

Typically, in Franklin County, referendum questions yield a large number of "undervotes," meaning people skip the question altogether, Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said.

"There's going to be a minority of people who decide it for everyone," she said.

Carol Wagaman, tax collector for Guilford Township, and her assistant, Doris Timmons, attended the presentation to educate themselves about the law. They anticipate an increased number of questions from residents as the election approaches.

"We were trying to find out who we can best help," Wagaman said.

Kelsey maintains a Web site with Act 1 information and links. It can be accessed at

Know more ... in 30 seconds

The issue: Pennsylvania's Act 1 of 2006 places the first-ever caps on school districts' abilities to raise property taxes.

What happened: School boards have approved referendum questions to appear on ballots in the May 15 primary election.

What's next: All Franklin County, Pa., voters will be asked whether they favor raising the earned income tax in exchange for a property tax reduction. The proposed earned income tax increases range from six-tenths of a percent in the Greencastle-Antrim School District to eight-tenths of a percent in the Fannett-Metal and Tuscarora school districts.

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