Could this, finally, be the year of school property tax reform in Pennsylvania?
Some local lawmakers think so -- and if it happens, they deserve some credit for keeping the issue alive.
Like many others, we've expressed frustration with our delegation. The members commiserate, but just haven't been able to legislate when it comes to this important issue.
The bitter truth is York County and other areas that saw healthy growth in the past 15 or 20 years have until recently been in the minority.
The flawed state funding formula worked just fine for the majority of slower-growing areas, where school districts received more funding per pupil than in districts where enrollment was increasing.
As a result, we and our lawmakers basically have been crying in the well-developed wilderness.
Still, some in the York County delegation weren't deterred, state Rep. Seth Grove among them.
For years the Dover Republican has tried to come up with a plan that would help local property owners and also pass muster with lawmakers whose constituents were doing just fine.
He introduced an optional menu of alternative taxes last year, and recently offered a similar version.
State Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, also has a plan, recently offering a package of bills that would eliminate property taxes across the state and replace them with an increased personal income tax, along with an increased and expanded sales tax.
Aside from some tweaks, however, these aren't exactly novel approaches.
So why might this be the year property tax reform finally happens?
One positive sign is that Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, says he has a commitment from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to visit the issue this fall. And, like it or not, we know nothing gets done without the leadership's blessing.
That new receptiveness might be due in part to legislators such as Grove and Gillespie keeping the issue front and center.
Another likely culprit, as state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, points out, is the Marcellus Shale formation, where new drilling techniques are tapping previously inaccessible natural gas deposits.
The current energy boom is unlike anything this state has seen since the oil rush in the 19th century, and a good many once-sleepy little Pennsylvania towns are growing by leaps and bounds.
Nowadays, that state funding formula isn't fitting so well for them.
"So all of the sudden they're facing the same problems we've faced," Miller said. "I'm hopeful they're starting to see the writing on the wall and will come to the table willing to discuss a new way of funding education in Pennsylvania.
Yes, by all means pull up a chair.
Our lawmakers have a few ideas that might interest you.