Excessively Easy Exemption Criteria for Tax Hikes

The Department of Education just granted 199 Pennsylvania school districts an exemption enabling them to raise taxes by more than the "index" calculated by the Department would otherwise allow.

Under current law, exemptions are granted for three reasons; to pay down construction debt, fund special education costs or cover pension funding. Well, isn’t that nice. Since money is fungible, revenue insufficient to cover total planned spending under current allowable tax rates can be said to represent a threat to one of the three exempted budget items. Thus, an exemption is almost automatically approved by the state. As a result, the only real constraint on school districts raising taxes beyond "index" allowed limits is the painfully skimpy sympathy school boards have for taxpayers.

School boards serve too many masters and unfortunately taxpayers are at the bottom of the list after teacher unions and parents of students who always demand top tier amenities for their students and who show excessive deference to and sympathy for teachers at contract time-don’t want any strikes you know.

So, given the state law that does not allow teacher layoffs for economic reasons and union intransigence in making concessions to help financially strapped districts, the natural inclination of school boards to avoid looking for spending cuts so as not to anger any of their preferred constituencies, it is an easy way out for them to ask for an exemption to their tax rate limitation and claim the additional funds are needed for one of the three exempted items. Mere child’s play. No real spending cuts ever need to be contemplated and taxpayers get the bill.