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Donaher's vision for education and property tax reform

Is it coincidental that right before an election there is a conference or meeting concerning property taxes? Just last year there was a meeting in Bethlehem Township concerning property tax reform. The meetings provide a forum for individual concerns related to the burden property taxes place on the citizens of the community. I hear those concerns every day when I knock on doors around the district. Whether you’re a senior citizen trying to stay in your home or a family contemplating the purchase of a home and calculating all the taxes that are associated with that purchase, taxes are becoming a greater burden. We hear a lot of talk but no action. While there is no magic wand one can wave to solve each problem, I do know that we must DO SOMETHING.

That only comes about by discussion and compromise. It also comes with increasing state revenues and directing that money to support public education. In the United States, Pennsylvania ranks 3rd in LOCAL support for public education and ranks 47thin STATE support for public education. In Pennsylvania it is supposed to be a 50 – 50 split between state and local support. Currently it is closer to 70 – 30. 70% local and 30% state as stated in an article in the Morning Call that quoted the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2016-2017.

As an educator, I always encouraged students to be the best they could possibly be. Being the best in whatever a child puts his or her mind to was the goal. I don’t think anyone wakes up each morning hoping they can be average. Well, I would be thrilled if Pennsylvania could just be average in state support for public education, being number 25 or 26 in the United States in the support for public education would be fantastic.

I support and thank Governor Wolf in his fight to increase funding for public schools however he is trying to fill a hole that was left by the devastating cuts made by the prior administration. There are a number of ways to support those faced with the increasing taxes at the local level. In order for the Commonwealth to successfully address the property tax dilemma, the Commonwealth must raise new and reoccurring revenue streams. This is not to add additional monies to school districts but rather to offset or reduce the reliance on property taxes. The Commonwealth must find additional revenue streams that will provide the stability necessary to fully and fairly fund our public schools.

We can start by increasing the amount of funds available in the senior citizens rebate program, while lowering the qualifications for seniors to qualify for rebates. We need Charter School reform and the reinstitution of charter school reimbursements to school districts for costs associated with charter school enrollments. Prior to 2010 school districts were reimbursed 30% of their charter school costs. That reimbursement stopped when Governor Corbet slashed public school funding. An extraction tax should be placed on the natural gas being removed from our Commonwealth. Multiple loopholes in the tax code (the Delaware Corporate Tax Loophole) allow corporations to avoid paying Pennsylvania taxes. These loopholes should be closed now. Past discussions centered on raising the sales tax or increasing the personal income tax in an effort to raise revenue, these taxes are regressive, in that they affect those of lower socio-economic means more dramatically. These taxes can also fluctuate and are not as reliable as property taxes as a source of secure funding. We must develop a process to increase revenues in the state but it will take discussion and compromise, something missing in our current state legislature when it comes to fairly and fully funding our public schools. Running new revenue through the fair funding formula will speed up the equitable funding promised in the fair funding formula.

Paid for by Friends of Dean Donaher
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