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Gaming money brings property tax relief to Pa.

May 02, 2008|By DON AINES

View Tax Reductions Chart

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Thursday announced how much in slots revenues each of the state's 501 school districts will receive for property tax relief in 2008-09, with the figures for Franklin County districts ranging from $82 to $133 for people with approved homestead and farmstead exclusions.

All of the districts will receive less than the statewide average homestead exclusion of $165 in property tax relief, according to the figures. The highest is $624 to the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County, while the lowest is $54 in the Dallas School District in Luzerne County.

The Chambersburg Area School District is the only one in the county that will receive relief from both slot machine revenues and an earned income tax (EIT) shift. Voters in the district approved an increase in income tax from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent beginning in the 2007-08 school year.

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That resulted in a $399 reduction in property taxes for those homeowners, although the higher income tax meant that households with incomes above about $50,000 had a higher combined tax bill.

In 2008-09, qualified homeowners in Chambersburg will see about $82 in property tax relief from slot machines, Business Manager Rick Vensel said. This will also be the first year of full collections on the increased EIT, which Vensel projects will generate about $8.3 million.

Split between the 16,369 homestead and farmstead exemptions in the district, those property owners would get an additional $509 in property tax relief.

In Chambersburg, renters will pay the higher earned income tax but, because they do not own a home or farm, will not receive any benefit from slots revenues. Retirees, whose pension and Social Security incomes are not taxed, saw the greatest benefit.

Waynesboro Area School District has 7,268 homesteads and 60 farmstead exemptions, County Chief Assessor Gary Martin said. The district is set to receive $733,968 in slots revenue for a reduction in the property tax of about $100, according to Department of Education figures.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Waynesboro Business Administrator Caroline Dean said. "It will actually be ... shown as a reduction in their assessed value."

"We were hoping for much more, but those were the projections way back in Act 72 days," said Tuscarora School District Business Manager Richard Kerr, referring to a previous property tax reform law that was rejected by most districts.

"They had been saying a $165 average. It's a little less than what the state was advertising," Kerr said.

Vensel said the formula for determining how much each district receives from the $612 million in gaming funds includes personal income divided by student population; market values and personal income aid ratios; real estate tax rates; and total school taxes divided by personal income.

Using that complicated formula, Chambersburg's allocation of gaming money ranks it 21st from the bottom among the 501 districts, Vensel said.

After the original application period a few years ago, there was another at the end of 2007, Martin said. Chambersburg added 1,287 homestead and farmstead exemptions by the time the application period ended in March.

The Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Tuscarora and Fannett-Metal school districts had about 1,100 exemptions added during the application period, according to county records.

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