Let me first say that the Allentown School District has been badly screwed by Tom Corbett’s budget cuts, the state funding formula, decades of white flight and sundry other big picture problems. The district is distressed, and there aren’t a lot of great options.
But! Trevor Jackson is clearly wrong about this:
The committee voted 7-2 to move the budget to the June 28th regularly scheduled board meeting where it will be up for final approval, with board members David Zimmerman and Joanne Jackson voting against it. It contains a 4.8 percent tax increase and dipping into the Fund Balance for $4.1 million to produce a balanced budget.
“After two years of budget cuts at the state level, all the low-hanging fruit is gone,” noted ASD Chief Financial Officer Trevor Jackson of the proposed budget.
The city of Allentown taxes land values at 5 times the rate of building values. The Allentown School District, for some reason, does not. ASD taxes both at the same rate:
When the city of Allentown split its tax rate, and started taxing land value at a higher rate than buildings, Pat Toomey says 75% of property owners got a tax cut.
People whose properties take up most of the lot pay less, and people with vacant lots and surface parking lots pay more. The school district could do the same thing.
Right now they are overtaxing responsible property owners and undertaxing vacant lot owners and people who are wasting land on value-subtracting uses. That is some low low hanging fruit. All they need to do is split the tax rate, and copy Allentown’s spread between land and buildings.
That will make it less painful and economically damaging to raise the millage rate if need be, and it will also spur more development in the city, and especially within the NIZ area where land values are going up because of the special tax district.