Pennsylvania property owners can expect to pay higher taxes to fund public schools in the coming year, according to a new survey.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) released a report with what is called the "worst outlook" since the survey began in 2010.
Respondents from every corner of the state, including each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties participated in The PASA-PASBO Report on School District Budgets. More school districts plan to raise property taxes this year than last year, jumping from 71% to 85%. If enacted, PASA and PASBO say this will be the seventh consecutive year in which over 60% of school districts have raised property taxes.
Among the districts planning increases, about 30% plan to tax above the Act 1 Index, which requires approval from the state, or consensus through referendum.
School officials say tax hikes are necessary to counter the fact that a growing share of their budgets are being spent on mandated expenses.
The districts project higher costs for mandated expenses including:
Based on the survey, the increased cost of mandated expenses for 2016-17 will exceed $600 million, not including any cost of living salary adjustments. Thus, even under the governor's proposal to add $250 million in basic and special education revenues to next year’s state budget, the vast majority of districts report they will not be able to restore previous cuts in staff and programs that have been made since 2010.
The report urges educators and parents to engage with their legislators in Harrisburg about the need for more state support. “We need to be vocal about these structural problems like pensions and charter school costs," Coudersport Superintendent Alanna Huck explained. "Without government action, increasing mandated expenses will continue to erode our ability to provide the high-quality education our children deserve.”