State Rep. Matt Gabler, appearing at the recent Business Connections luncheon sponsored by the Greater DuBois Area Chamber of Commerce said the elimination of school property tax elimination is a popular concept.
Gabler said one of the reasons it is so popular is that property taxes are one of the most unpopular taxes.
“It’s one of the things that’s most difficult to pay. The income tax is easy. It comes out of your check before you see it, so you only get mad at it if you really look closer at your check stub,” said Gabler.
But you can’t tell the property tax collector to go away, Gabler said.
“Would it make sense for us to collect those taxes in a different way?” he said. “There’s been a proposal out there for quite some time. It started two years back as House Bill 1776. The last few terms they called it House Bill 76.”
Gabler said the proposal would mean a tax shift.
“We collect about $13 or $14 billion across the state at the local level to put into public schools,” said Gabler. “That is collected at your local level by each of our 501 school districts. If we were to eliminate those taxes, we’d have to replace that $14 billion and also do a calculation to figure out how much would they have collected next year and the year after and the year after, and make sure that our formula’s parallel with that.”
“You would have the state government collect that and then come up with a funding formula and then push that back into 501 school districts across the state and that typically otherwise would have been collected in local property taxes,” said Gabler. “Maybe property taxes go away. That’s what the plan would look like in theory.”
Gabler’s said his concern is that while the average property tax bill in the DuBois area is not “fun to pay,” compared to the tax bill, for example, in Berks County, what an average middle class home is paying in property taxes into their school system, in order to eliminate their taxes, “we would be sending a lot of our tax dollars to them to subsidize their schools.”
“The challenge is how do you come up with that funding formula to fairly determine how the money that we raised most of the year benefits these schools and we don’t end up subsidizing somebody else. There is such a disparity across the state how that funding works out.”
Gabler said while property taxes are certainly an unpopular tax, from his perspective, for the average family in the DuBois area to pay $2,000 a year into the local schools is less harmful than paying $4,000 to somebody else’s school.
“That’s why we haven’t been able to get anywhere,” he said.
Gabler noted that Rep. Frank Ryan is working on a proposal which will focus on accountability in spending, rather than just making it about shifting how the real estate property payment goes.