No, The Low Hanging Fruit Is Not Gone in the Allentown School District

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.


  1. “Right now they are overtaxing responsible property owners and undertaxing vacant lot owners… All they need to do is split the tax rate, and copy Allentown’s spread between land and buildings.”

    Empty lots don’t have school age children on them.

    Why the heck should the ASD get bonus money on land that isn’t a burden to the school district’s budget? Why would you want to screw an individual who owns land which doesn’t impact the school district’s budget?

    Your advocating for nothing more then an unwarranted money grab for the schools.

    Isn’t it bad enough for you that some who never had children or businesses (that also don’t impact the school budget) are being whacked already?

    ” it will also spur more development in the city,”

    Which would be yet another disadvantage to the ASD since 2/3rds of the ASD budget relies on federal and state funding. More development (property taxes) would only generate 1/3rd for the school district.

    In the case of school districts, density is not to it’s advantage. Your wrong on both of your talking points when discussing the educational funding needs in Allentown schools.

    • Clarification: “More development (property taxes) would only generate 1/3rd for the school district.”

      Per additional student who would then occupy these additional properties.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        If there’s more students, and the existing schools can’t accommodate them, then they should build additional schools. More growth is good for Allentown’s economy and the regional economy. The focus of public policy should be producing more population growth and more dense development in center city Allentown.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      That’s crazy. Of course more development is better for the school district. More development means higher land values, and that means more revenue for the school district. Every vacant lot in the NIZ is a robbery from Allentown school children.

      • If I remember, it costs ASD about $11k/year/student. A new home in the district will generate $4k/year in school taxes. That house has 2 kids, the district has yet another hole in its budget to fill.

        East Penn took it in the chops because of all the people fleeing North Jersey and NYC – school taxes went up 75% in 10 years to pay for it.

        If those NIZ lots go to commercial businesses, then the district benefits – although not as much as you think, because with subsidized rents the buildings may not appraise as you think they will. But any residential development in Allentown whatsoever, without a concurrent large developer fee to the district, makes the finances there worse.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          I think if ASD moved to an LVT, the main effect would be to spur commercial development. Makes the most sense in the NIZ because of the EIT situation. Ha, any more acronyms to squeeze in there? Anyway, a better commercial district would tend to attract more young people and renters, who would be net payers since they wouldn’t be putting kids in school for a while.

Speak Your Mind