Tax bills coming
Editorm Gettysburg Times,
The 2019/2020 school district budgets have been advertised and must be approved in June. All Adams County districts will, once again, increase property taxes in the perpetual cycle of “sure” bets. Boards will claim financial “necessity” and decry the lack of funding from the Commonwealth. Don’t expect to hear about district budget growth or the overall growth in Commonwealth education funding. Overall Commonwealth funding has increased from the mid 30 percent level to the low 40 percent level in the last four years in the Upper Adams School District (UASD). The 2019/2020 UASD budget reflects a 4 percent overall spending increase, nearly twice the rate of inflation. At that rate it would be hard to imagine how the Commonwealth could/would ever reach the District’ expectation of 50 percent funding. Makes a good talking point but does little for those carrying the tax burden that the District levies on property owners with, sadly, no meaningful public participation in the processes.
I listen to UASD budget discussions. After dealing with normally unrealistic initial budget proposals, some members make emotional budget arguments that express fears that they could run out of funds for emergencies, bloviate about possible changes in laws that could alter their ability to control local property taxes and might change the re-imbursement of transportation costs and express reluctance to utilize assigned and unassigned funds to support the very costs they were established to fund. These emotional budget “discussions” may be helpful in establishing priorities but budget “decisions”, based on emotions, don’t necessarily reflect actual financial, business and educational needs.
I have always believed that budgets should be data driven. Look at the numbers and do the math, review current year-to-date and past actual revenues/expenditures verses budget predictions, question the need to add programs and staff that drive continued financial costs and seek possible alternatives to expensive budget items.
UASD property taxes will increase taxes by 2.5 percent (78 percent of the maximum allowed without a referendum), the first time since Act 1 was approved that they will not levy the maximum (or more) increase permitted. In my opinion, the financial “data” available to the public does not support his tax increase. The Board was given about 30 choices (slightly fewer than the Baskin-Robbins menu), including “no tax increase”. The rational for the choice appears not driven by the data, just the “flavor” the Board could agree upon. The tax bills will arrive soon,.....don’t get emotional!