Question: if Mt. Lebanon school district is limited to a 3% tax increase under Act 1 then how is it that taxpayers woke up this morning to find that their school property tax bill is about to increase 10.7%?
Answer: there are so many exceptions built into Act 1 permitting school districts to ignore their "allowable" increase that the "so called" taxpayer protections have more holes than Swiss cheese.
Act 1 was supposed to change the school property tax system by allowing for tax relief from legalized slots and providing taxpayer protections by instituting a tax cap and allowing for voter referenda when the cap was exceeded. But the law also allowed districts the ability to secure exceptions for outstripping the cap without having to put the tax increase before the voters if the approved expenditures fell into one of ten categories, including school construction, health care benefits, special education expenditures, etc.
At the new rate of 26.69 mills Mt. Lebanon won’t have the highest school tax rate in the County, but it approaches the top of the list. But this increase is compounded by the events coming in the near term for the district: a countywide reassessment that will affect under valued homes and a growth in school spending that is currently forecast to increase property taxes (as witnessed by last night’s action) and earned income taxes. In short Mt. Lebanon homes could be facing significant tax hikes in the next four years.
The Governor says he is coming up with a plan to continue government operations and pay employees despite not having a budget in place. If the Governor can do that why not send the Legislature home and let him run the government? This would set a very bad precedent and makes a mockery of constitutionally ordered governance. Just another sign of how Pennsylvanians are losing their grip over their own government.
Willfully disobeying the Constitution is a violation of an elected official’s oath of office. Violating one’s oath is-or should be-an impeachable offense. But we have seen the sense of honor so diminished in modern politics that we are not even surprised or dismayed at open and flagrant examples of officials disregarding their oath of office.
And that raises another issue. Why does the state continue to collect tax revenue when there is no budget? If it cannot get an agreement on spending, then it ought not to be able to collect taxes during that period. Raising money that cannot be legally spent should not be allowed.
Then too, during the time when there is no budget, there should be no pay for the Governor, his staff or cabinet members, legislators and their staffs.
The proverbial "other shoe" dropped today in the state budget deliberations when the Governor proposed a temporary, three year increase in the state’s personal income tax from 3.07% to 3.57%. The Governor says that even with the increase PA will still have the "third lowest" income tax rate.
Here’s what the latest data from the Tax Foundation shows on personal income tax rates in the nation. Seven states have no income tax; two tax just interest and dividends, not wages; that leaves 41 states with a personal income tax.
Pennsylvania and five other states (CO, IL, IN, MI, and UT) have flat income tax rates (as opposed to graduated rates). Right now PA has the next to lowest rate out of those six states. An increase to 3.57% would move it ahead of IN (3.4%) into second next to lowest (IN and IL, at 3%, would be lower). Only CO and PA have no standard deduction or personal exemptions according to Foundation data.
Going back to 2000 data, CO and MI have lowered their rates; UT moved from a graduated system to a flat rate; IL and IN made no changes; PA increased from 2.8% to the current 3.07%. A boost to 3.57% would represent a 30% increase in the income tax rate since 2004, when the rate was raised to the 3.07% level.