Saturday, July 05, 2008

PA Question: Consolidate School Management Equals Property Tax Elimination As Promised?

A plan put forth by state Representative Timothy Mahoney (D-Fayette) to "consolidate small school districts into a single countywide school district for the purposes of administration and taxing" is being circulated in the state House of Representatives. Should enough co-sponsors approve of the legislation, Rep. Mahoney will officially present the bill for a House vote.

As noted in a news release on the PA House website:

The proposal by Mahoney would allow county commissioners to place a referendum on the ballot asking residents if they support consolidating small school districts into a single, countywide school district for purposes of administration and taxing. The consolidation process could begin if at least two-thirds of voters approved the referendum...

The state legislator touts the proposal:

"Pennsylvania voters in small school districts should have a say in whether they want real tax reform and my legislation would save tax dollars by lowering operational costs in smaller school districts," Mahoney said.

Bill would put school unification plan on ballot
By Liz Zemba
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Pennsylvania state legislator intends to introduce legislation to allow voters to approve a consolidation of small school districts into countywide districts.
In a press release issued Tuesday, state Rep. Timothy Mahoney, D-South Union, announced plans to introduce the legislation. The Fayette County lawmaker indicated he is seeking support from other lawmakers before proceeding with the proposal.

Under the proposed legislation, county commissioners would have the option of placing on the ballot a referendum seeking approval of consolidating school districts into a single countywide district.

Only fourth- through eighth-class counties would be eligible under the proposal. The consolidation process would begin only if at least two-thirds of voters approved of the measure.

Participating districts would retain their own school buildings, sports teams, mascots and individual identities. Consolidation would be for purposes of administration and taxing.
Should any districts approve of such a consolidation, county commissioners would then have the task of appointing three school directors to six-year terms. Directors would be limited to two terms, Mahoney said.

Mahoney claimed such consolidations will save tax dollars through lower operating costs, especially for small school districts.

School districts in Fayette, which is a fourth-class county, would be eligible to consider consolidation under the terms outlined by Mahoney...

A little missed question nobody seems to be asking?

How does this measure equate to real "school" property tax "reform?"

The problem identified for decades is PA's school property tax inequality and growth.

State legislators have grappled with how schools are funded, by a school property tax, and many current state legislators were sent to Harrisburg on their own promise to "eliminate" school property taxes, not just "reform" school property taxation.

Candidate for 51st District, Democrat Timothy Mahoney comment on elimination of property taxation

How will consolidating school district "management" eliminate school property taxes?

The current plan doesn't appear to eliminate school property taxation, replacing the system with some other form of taxation, say a sales tax.

Worse, the PA state legislature will still not have implemented a fair and equitable way to fund schools, so any purported cost savings by consolidating management will not translate to the abhorrent situation of taxpayers facing loss of residence or business for failure to pay their tax obligation.

Last September, state Rep. Tim Mahoney also publicly stated his two top priorites were open records legislation, and school property tax elimination.

He admitted publicly he agreed the tax exemption program, Keystone Opportunity Zones, were unfair, not uniform according to PA Constitution, and unconstitutional. He publicly stated his third top priority would be addressing KOZs.

Yet, when a bill to extend KOZs and expand them was presented in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mahoney voted yea.

HB 2297: Expansion of the Keystone Opportunity Zone

Issues: Budget, Spending and Taxes, Business and Consumers, Housing and Property Issues
Date: 05/07/2008

Search results coverage KOZs and Tim Mahoney

The legislation he's presenting in this measure can of course be said to be an effort to tackle the problematic situation of out of whack costs of school management and administration in the public domain.

But that isn't what Rep. Mahoney promised. He promised school property tax elimination, not mere reform, and not everything else but.

Under the plan proposed by state Rep. Mahoney, school boards will still exist with only 3 board members to be appoined by county commissioners? So when commissioners are not reelected, and the terms of school board directors expire, new commissioners would appoint school board directors?

This appears to be yet another way to appear to be doing something about school property reform, bit by bit, but actually not doing anything at all of any substance which will eliminate school property taxation.

Why not simply eliminate school property taxation for funding schools? Then, why not eliminate local school boards because there would be no need for local school boards? Then why not eliminate the monopoly of public schools? Let the best of the best compete for the sales tax big dollars. Then, what will happen? A new kind of growth will miraculously appear. The rise of competitive private schools to replace the entrenched public schools over time. Knock out the public school nepotism immediately since no private school administration will hire teachers only because they are related to somebody on the school board or administration.

School property taxation must go, that's the only goal that needs to be accomplished, even if that takes an amendment to the PA Constitution.

That's the referendum question that state legislators should be placing on local ballots. This November.

Simultaneously, KOZs must be abolished as state Rep. Tim Mahoney has admitted these are unfair, not uniform according to PA Constitution, and therefore unconstitutional.

The legislator continues to ignore his own words, and actually vote without question on extending KOZs.

Net the Truth Online

Herald-Standard article

Mahoney details consolidation plan
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard

Calling it a "win-win," state Rep. Timothy Mahoney said Wednesday he is introducing legislation to allow smaller school districts to consolidate into countywide districts that would keep the district identities intact but would change how districts are managed.

Mahoney, D-South Union Township, said his plan is "the start on reducing property taxes," estimating it would mean a reduction of at least 20 percent.

"The most important thing is school districts would be staying the same as far as identities but they would be managed differently," Mahoney said.

Specifically, Mahoney said the change would consolidate how districts buy contracts and would mean lower benefit package costs.

If we want to start tax reform, this is how we do it," Mahoney said.

Specifically, the plan calls for one superintendent per district with a three-member board, and the superintendent he would sign off on every job application, Mahoney said.

Mahoney said his bill, which only affects 4th through 8th class counties, would take nepotism out of the school districts. He said the bill seeks to save tax dollars by lowering the cost of doing business in smaller school districts.

The bill would allow county commissioners to place a referendum on the primary or general election ballot and ask the electorate whether they support combining specific school districts into a countywide school district. If two-thirds of the electors support the referendum, then the named school districts shall undertake consolidation procedures.

Mahoney said by letting voters decide, they are becoming part of the process.

"I am putting it back in the voters' hands," Mahoney said.

According to Mahoney, if a countywide consolidation is undertaken, the state Department of Education would provide advice and legal counsel along with a $2 million grant for consolidation purposes. Also, employees of the newly formed countywide school district would be eligible for membership in the Pennsylvania Employee Benefit Trust Fund, which could save the new countywide school district roughly $2,183 per employee. Typically, school districts pay $9,558 in health-care benefits for employees, but membership in the PEBTF would only cost school districts $7,375 per employee.

The bill calls for directors currently in office in each component school district to be directors of the newly formed school district until the end of their terms.

The makeup of the new board would be three directors appointed by the county commissioners. The directors would need to have backgrounds of education, business, management, local government, construction or maintenance. Directors would serve six years and could not serve for more than two terms or 12 years, whichever is less.

Mahoney said by having people with business and related experience on the board, it would help the school district to be run like a business.

He said by allowing smaller school districts to consolidate into countywide school districts, a better educational environment would be provided for students and resources and contracts could be shared at a lower cost for taxpayers.

Of interest - the measure to consolidate school administration and taxing will be a referendum question authorized by the board of county commissioners of a county.

It isn't quite clear why Rep. Mahoney chose that route rather than to have a percentage of voters in each district call for the referendum question as with other such measures that affect local taxation (except for Keystone Opportunity Zones), and once the refendum is placed on the ballot, according to Mahoney's plan, 2/3rds of the voters must approve of the referendum for it to pass.

That's more than a small hurdle. It's very rare for a strong showing of voters to turn out for Primaries in PA, usually a decrease in voter turnout is seen in non-Presidential years, unless there is a contentious race for school board members, or county commissioner Primary candidates.

With other than a simple majority needed to pass, it is unlikely the referendum will pass, especially if supporters of the current school administration and management in the individual districts turn out in larger numbers to vote down the referendum.

Net the Truth Online

Mahoney plans bill to consolidate school districts for taxpayer savings
News Release

State Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fayette, plans to introduce legislation that would save tax dollars by allowing residents to approve the consolidation of small school districts into countywide school districts in Pennsylvania.

The proposal by Mahoney would allow county commissioners to place a referendum on the ballot asking residents if they support consolidating small school districts into a single, countywide school district for purposes of administration and taxing. The consolidation process could begin if at least two-thirds of voters approved the referendum

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