A newspaper article this morning indicated that Penn Hills-the second largest municipality in Allegheny County-plans to pass a 0.5 mill increase in its property tax rate for the 2012 fiscal year. According to the Treasurer’s website, Penn Hills’ millage is currently 5.35 mills. Raising it 0.5 to 5.85 mills would constitute a 9% boost in the millage rate.
From another article, this one about the new assessment mailings that will go out to Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver (the two communities that make up the Pittsburgh Public School District) on December 19th: "State law provides two protections for property owners following a reassessment. An anti-windfall provision requires municipalities to readjust their millage rates to reflect changes in overall property values. The hoped-for result will be to keep the total amount collected through real estate taxes before and after reassessment ‘revenue neutral.’ Elected officials, however, can vote separately to raise tax collections by up to 5 percent following reassessment. Amounts higher than 5 percent would have to be approved by a judge."
The state law in question is Act 71 of 2005, which is going to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks and months as the assessment moves forward. This is especially true of County Council’s planned 1 mill increase (21%). Previously Allegheny County and taxing bodies in the County could take 105% of the previous year’s revenue through a reassessment windfall. Now that percentage would have to be arrived at in a two step process. Anything above that requires court approval.
Striking teachers in the Penn Hills school district offered to return to work a day earlier than required by the state. The district has accepted the offer. Mr. Santicola-the spokesman for the state teacher union association and the Penn Hills teachers-in a statement on the issue said, "it’s a gesture to all parties that we want this thing resolved".
Why would the teachers make such a gesture? It would seem fairly obvious. They were heavy losers in the public relations battle. In the current economic environment and given the utter weakness of their case, that was to be expected. Yet they called a strike anyway.
The real reason for the strike? The union leaders wanted to create as much aggravation for the Board as possible and remind taxpayers of the power teachers wield by having the right to strike. In this case, the small number of days they could be out curtailed their ability to have frustrated parents and propagandized students go to bat for them at Board meetings. All in all a very poor strategy. All they have done is reveal the depth of their disdain for taxpayers and students. But they have also added one more reason for Pennsylvania to end the ridiculous policy of allowing teachers to walk out with no loss of pay.
Wonder if the voters in Pennsylvania will ever see the light and demand an end to teacher strikes? In the end, it is they who must force the issue. Their elected officials are too afraid to do it.
Penn Hills School District is cancelling classes in response to a teacher strike. This situation is all too commonplace in the state that annually leads the nation in teacher strikes.