Friday, February 3, 2017

Parkland Superintendent Shares Thoughts on School Property Tax Reform

Ron Eichenberg, Associate Broker, Managing Director, Commercial Sales & Development, HANNA Frederick Commercial

There is growing concern that both chambers of the General Assembly (particularly the Senate) have indicated that school property tax elimination will be a priority issue in the new session. The Governor has also indicated his interest in school property tax reform.

Richard Sniscak, Superintendent of Parkland Schools and fellow WLLC Board member, is highly regarded locally and on a state wide basis shares his thoughts.

What are the concerns with this tax shift plan?

The plan is being touted as a victory for homeowners and a better way of funding public education, but the truth is that it is not a panacea for taxpayers or school districts. Instead, the elimination of the property tax merely serves to create additional, higher tax burdens for other taxpayers and destabilize funding for public education.

Tell your senator to oppose a tax elimination plan because:

School funding inequities will be exacerbated.  The plan will undo the work recently completed to enact a new basic education funding formula and provide a fair financial investment for school districts. Instead, districts will be placed in a system that lacks financial equity and predictability. The property tax provides a stable foundation for local communities to use as needed to support their schools. School boards need to be able to use a mix of local taxes and the development of available funding bases that are suitable to each school district’s unique economic capabilities and conditions.

It does not address the factors driving school costs. Eliminating property taxes without addressing the factors driving districts’ budgets does not help contain the cost of mandates such as: pension, regular and special education costs paid to charter schools, special education, health care and other areas.  The provisions in the bill to send tax dollars back to districts do not take into consideration these mandated costs and is largely why this plan never will fully replace projected property tax revenue amounts needed by school districts.  

It eliminates local control; creates a state takeover of public schools. School boards are accountable for spending decisions and student performance. By abolishing local ability to raise revenue or make financial decisions, the state will be responsible for the financial health of all 500 school districts. Who will be accountable to students, parents, teachers and communities for the performance and safety of our schools?

Tax burdens are shifted disproportionately. The use of income taxes shifts the local tax burden away from large businesses to individual taxpayers, allowing some businesses to benefit from the elimination of their school property taxes without paying a penny more. Out-of-state vacation homeowners who live in our communities do not pay personal income tax and now will not pay property tax either. Expanded sales taxes more heavily impact middle-class and low-income families. Tax agreements made with large businesses will also be worthless to districts under this plan. The burden is inequitably shifted to make up for the loss of revenue.

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