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Corbett’s Tax Promise Doesn’t Apply to Local Government

By Tom Mulkeen, Contributing Writer

Governor Corbett released his budget last week and as he promised, no taxes of any kind were raised.  However, because of the dramatic cuts to aid to school districts throughout Pennsylvania, local governments may be forced to raise taxes on their citizens to avoid significant cuts to their local schools.

$1.3 billion was cut from education aid to state-affiliated universities and public school districts. Those school districts across the state have been very busy the last two weeks trying to figure out exactly how much money they’re losing and how to adjust their budgets accordingly.

According to the Allentown Morning Call, the Bethlehem School District will lose $5 million because of Corbett’s proposal, which would bring their budget deficit to $11 million.  Superintendent Joseph Roy said that there would be cuts to staff and programs that took place outside of the school day that were reliant on state grants for the most part.  They plan to save $7 million from their cuts, but will be instituting a 3.3% tax increase in order to cover the other $4 million.

Smaller districts that did not lose as much money are trying to think of creative ways to cut funds in order to avoid having to raise taxes on their citizens.  Some of these include moving school literature online, reducing the number of textbooks, and eliminating after school services like tutoring. Many district officials have taken no-tax pledges of their own, but it remains unclear whether honoring them is an option.

Editorials in local newspapers throughout the state have not had kind words about the proposed cuts to education.  The Pottstown Mercury pointed out that taxes would have to go up by 8.75% in the Phoenixville school district and the Boyertown district was facing the largest deficit in its history at $4.3 million.

The Delco Daily Times predicted that his proposal would not get far in Harrisburg.  The new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Bill Adolph (R-165) of Springfield, said, “I could not support it as it stands now with the education cuts.”  Steve Barrar (R-160) of Upper Chichester, said his office was receiving 300 emails a day, mostly from upset students or parents who would be affected by the cuts.

No state Rep. wants his office to be that busy this early into their term, and no one in Harrisburg wants to take the heat for local tax increases.

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