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EDITORIAL: Don't miss school tax town hall

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE- In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo an America flag flies at the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa. In Pennsylvania, good fiscal times may not necessarily mean good fiscal condition. The rage in the state Capitol right now is the surplus that state government rolled up in the almost-ended fiscal year, helped by unexpectedly strong corporate and sales tax collections. That news alone is fueling requests from a legion of lobbyists with pet projects, but the momentary surplus has not necessarily changed views from the outside that Pennsylvania is a state with tall fiscal challenges. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

York County residents will have a chance to weigh in on school funding reform later this month in Dallastown.

It’s going to be at Bethlehem United Methodist Church, but with overflow, who knows. It could also spill into Red Lion, maybe even Spry or Felton.

Nearly everyone wants to talk about school taxes. Almost all property owners. Just about every single voter.

We hedge, but only because we haven’t actually talked to everyone.

The ones who do talk – every election, to us, to candidates – you can bet their top priority is eliminating a tax they say keeps seniors and those on a fixed income constantly in debt.

More:New Pennsylvania school property tax elimination bill seeks 'permanent fix'

More:What changed in final York County 2019-20 school district budgets?

What’s the fix? Well, if it was that easy we wouldn’t still be talking about the problem decades after we identified it.

For one thing, any change will affect everyone, but everyone wants to be “held harmless.” That means a well-off district will keep receiving the same amount of funding even if its population drops, while a poorer district will get the same if its student body grows.

Here’s one idea that includes that clause: State Rep. Frank Ryan plans to introduce a bill he says will be "revenue-neutral" — a dollar-for-dollar replacement of about $15 billion in school property tax this year.

It entails a 1.85% local personal income tax that would go to school districts and a 2% local sales tax increase that would go to districts countywide.

It would also include a 4.92% retirement income tax — excluding Social Security — of which 1.85% would go to districts.

And everyone would be held harmless for three years.

Note “local” in each of those taxes and consider how York City, with a median household income well below the statewide mark, would fare.

We hope all of our readers attend this town hall and ask our lawmakers how the plans will help their districts – or, better yet, why the state isn’t fulfilling its constitutional obligation to fund public education in Pennsylvania.