Commotion and heated citizens filled the Johnsville Administration Building
in Warminster Monday night after learning about how a new act passed by Ed
Rendell will effect them if the School Board opts to it.
Tim Vale and Greg Ewing, financial supervisors, lead a meeting held by the town around 7:00 p.m. on November 21, 2004 to inform and discuss Act 72-a statewide property tax reduction program. They talked about what it means for the citizens and School Board in Warminster. They realize this is a confusing Act to comprehend and wanted to try and simplify the act to the residents.
Ed Rendell passed Act 72 over the 4th of July weekend. Realizing the gambling that will be taking place in Philadelphia, more money will enter the state and he can give back a portion of the money to the homeowner taxpayers. September 2nd or 3rd law enacted the Act after changes and modifications were made. “They can’t even agree what time the law went into effect let alone what it says,” Greg stated.
Greg Ewing led the discussion clarifying what the act is and what it means. He explained that participants in the program will see an increase of money entering the state from slot machines (gaming money) and raised EIT (earned income tax). With this extra income to the state Ed Rendell wants to give some back to the citizens by cutting residents Property Taxes.
However Greg explained that the state has to receive $900 million in gaming money to see a reduction in property tax. “Does the amount that has to be gained stay the same?” Questioned Tom Holland, a citizen of Warminster. Greg went on to explain that the gaming revenues would fluctuate and change every year. George Quinn, a resident in Warminster, questioned, “ So what if the gaming money isn’t reached?” The law is written that $900 million has to be collected for a .10% increase in EIT for money to be distributed back. The money will be put in a reserve until it hits $900 million. “It’s like I tell my daughter, all I can say is just because”, Greg Ewing stated after people were mumbling their dislike.
Greg went on to give details in roughly how much of a reduction would be seen in a homeowner’s Property Tax. If $900 million is gained in gaming revenues and the estimated .10% of EIT is $847,427 and applications that were approved are 13,642 then the property tax reduction would turn out to be about $138 a year. A citizen replied with, “Big Deal. We are getting screwed, we’re not saving anything and we’re paying more. That’s not tax relief.” “Everyone gets hit with the increased earned income tax it’s all speculative, there’s no guarantee, could be a while until gaming money will reach $900 million,” Greg answered. Property Tax reduction does not take place until enough money ($900 million) is distributed by law, it’s a long process. However, the school district can not levy tax until they are told there is enough gaming money.
Already frustrated citizens broke out into more of an uproar after hearing that certain programs in schools will have to be cut to adhere to the new budget. Schools have to now move along a budget and the School Board has to start thinking of what programs to cut and what ones to keep.
Greg explained that in Pa, School Boards can not lay-off teachers for economic reasons. Leaving the only choice to cut programs, including sports, clubs, etc. Sandra Platt said, “I don’t understand. They are taking all this money and giving little back. Where is all this lottery money going? And worst of all they are not doing anything for the kids, they are not benefiting from anything and that pisses me off.”
After things heated up Greg clarified, “I just want to remind everyone that I am just the messenger, and don’t kill the messenger.”
The School Board starting addressing their concerns as well, Mrs. Huff reacted, “I don’t see any of this as a win-win situation.” Mr. Grossi mentioned, “If we the Board do adopt the act that is almost ridiculous to raise taxes because it will have to change every year and may go up.” Come May 30th the citizens in Warminster will either be pleased with the Boards decision about the act or appalled.
Act 72 must be accepted or rejected by each of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts by May 30, 2005. Warminster as well as other towns all held town meetings to discuss and try to understand the new act. Warminster resident left stunned and in other towns such as Lewisburg the Board leaders left their meeting in fear that they have to loose their unique programs that set them apart from other schools. Towns across Pa are not warming up to this new act.