York County proposes tax bump for open space protection

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Property taxes in York County would jump slightly in 2020 if the board of commissioners adopts a proposed 0.1-mill tax hike.

The extra millage would amount to $1.63 million and be used to buy 2,500 acres, or about four square miles, of open space annually for protection from development.

"In the end, the only option that the county has to generate the kind of money needed to preserve 2,500 acres is a real estate tax," said Mark Derr, county administrator.

With the 0.1-mill increase, the county millage rate would be 5.9 mills.

The average assessed value of all residential properties in York County is $133,498, Derr said, meaning the average homeowner would pay an additional $13.35 per year in property taxes.

Before the commissioners proposed the new tax, they looked at survey data provided by the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College.

The York County Planning Commission contracted with York College, on behalf of the York County Land Protection Committee, to survey county residents and find out if anyone would be willing to pay for land protection.

The Land Protection Committee includes the Planning Commission, several county departments and the Farms and Natural Lands Trust of York County.

York County is asking for the public's opinion on open spaces and if more land should be protected.
Thursday, August 29, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Of the 2,200 people who responded to the survey, at least 75% said they were willing to pay more in taxes to fund open space protection efforts, and 90% said protecting open space is important for future generations.

Over the next 30 years, county officials hope to add an additional 85,000 acres, or 132 square miles, to the county's protected open space.

The proposed 2020 budget of $579.7 million includes about $245 million in the general fund, which covers the county's general operating expenses and bills.

Another $273.5 million in special revenue funds covers departments such as the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Department of Human Services, the Capital Reserve Fund, the Area Agency on Agency and the York County Planning Commission.

The remaining $61.2 million in fiduciary funds includes the county's retirement fund, the Tax Claim Bureau, the OPEB trust and the newly created Land Preservation Fund.

The commissioners will vote Dec. 18 on whether to adopt the budget.

More:York County residents open to tax hike for land protection, survey says

More:EDITORIAL: A mandate to protect York County lands

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify which agency contracted with the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College. It was the York County Planning Commission on behalf of the York County Land Protection Committee.