York Haven and Goldsboro are separated by about four miles of Route 382 and 262 along the Susquehanna River.
Those four miles translate into a $2,300 disparity in taxes paid by the owner of a $150,000 home in those two boroughs.
That's the tax roulette in a state where the combined municipal, county and school property taxes vary widely based on geography.
A York Dispatch analysis of 2011 tax burdens in all 72 York County municipalities shows startling differences in what people pay in taxes. The analysis takes into account the municipal tax, the school district tax and the 4.15 mill county tax.
The owner of a $150,000 home living in York Haven in Northeastern School District will pay about $4,700 for all three taxes.
The owner of a home of the same value in Goldsboro in the West Shore School District pays about half that -- $2,400.
And the owner of a $150,000 home in York City will pay about $7,600 in taxes, by far the most in the county, even though school property taxes haven't been raised in four years.
"This is nuts. This makes no sense at all," said Joel Sears, president of the York County Taxpayers Council.
Sears said the inequitable property tax system puts an uneven burden on taxpayers, even if they are
basically using the same services from town to town. And lawmakers are doing nothing about it, he said.
"Where is the political courage?" Sears asked.
City really worse? Shanna Wiest lives in Springettsbury Township on the York Suburban School District side.
She works as government affairs director for the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties and pointed out that people just across the street pay less in taxes than she does because they are in the Central York School District side of the township.
According to the analysis, the average homeowner pays about $300 more to live on the York Suburban side.
But city taxes pose a far worse situation, she said, bad enough that "it's the number one issue for people who choose to move out of the city."
The city's municipal tax rate is 17.38 mills -- about eight to 10 times that of most boroughs or townships. York City also has the highest school property tax rate in the county at 29.54 mills.
And yet potential homebuyers don't think that they often can buy more house for the money, so to speak, in the city than in nearby towns, Wiest said.
They may pay more in taxes for essentially the same house, but the average monthly mortgage bill with taxes included often isn't much different inside versus outside the city, she said, based on her research.
"The issue is conveying that to potential buyers. There's sticker shock there" over taxes, Wiest said.
York City School Board President Samuel Beard is facing a $25 million deficit in the upcoming budget that will require his board to raise taxes for the first time in four years.
If more people lived in the city instead of just working there, maybe the municipal and school taxes would be lower, he said.
"Everyone is not pitching in. The homeowner, who is struggling, that's who the burden is falling on. You are going to get to that breaking point. People are not going to be able to afford their taxes," Beard said.
What can be done? State Rep. Ron Miller pointed out municipalities can vary greatly in their services -- one might offer garbage service, another may not, for example -- and so it doesn't create an exact apples-to-apples comparison for mills since expenses differ.
But school districts all essentially offer the same thing, he said. The fact there's such a disparity in school property taxes is because "the system is drastically broken," he said.
An overhaul is needed in how schools are funded, but "to do that, with a $4 billion hole in the (state) budget, is impossible," Miller said.
Loganville Borough Council President Ron Tombesi said he's done his best to keep borough taxes low. Loganville has no full-time employees and contracts out maintenance and snow plowing.
"We don't have those big bills everyone else has," Tombesi said.
At 2 mills this year, his municipal taxes are just about average in York County. And yet because Dallastown schools have one of the highest tax rates of the 16 districts, his borough is one of the 10 highest taxed municipalities.
Dallastown school officials, who are proposing a zero tax increase next school year, have often said state funding hasn't kept pace with their enrollment growth. That's shifted the burden to local taxpayers.
Tombesi said it doesn't make much sense why anyone pays hundreds or thousands of dollars more just because their neighborhood school district happens to have a higher tax rate, when the services are essentially the same. The same goes for municipalities.
"Everybody needs to cut back on spending that doesn't need to be done," Tombesi said.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.