Grove Property Tax Increase Exception Controls Included in Final Budget Deal
School construction mandate relief also included in package
A proposal offered by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) to limit Act 1 property tax increase exceptions for school districts has been included in the final budget agreement.
“It has been a hard fight to limit the exceptions school districts use to skirt the referendum process, but we were able to eliminate the majority of the exceptions with this compromise,” said Grove. “The governor indicated he wanted this language as part of the budget deal, and the only exceptions remaining on the books when this legislation is signed into law will be pensions, grandfathered/electoral debt, and special education. Retaining these exceptions was necessary to reach a compromise.”
Language similar to Grove’s House Bill 1326 was amended into Senate Bill 330. The inclusion of the amendment will mandate school districts to seek voter approval for any property tax increase above the state-set inflationary index, unless an exception is sought for special education expenses, grandfathered/electoral debt or pension costs. Grove’s amendment would not allow a blanket, no-questions-asked approval process for these exceptions, as is the case under the current Act 1 language. Rather, the proposal would require school districts to meet certain financial criteria before gaining approval for the exceptions.
School districts will be empowered to increase property taxes for any purpose above the state-set index if such an increase is approved by the voters in a referendum. Any property tax increase exception sought and approved before the legislation goes into effect will be honored.
“People are fed up with ever-increasing property taxes, and they feel powerless to stop school districts from imposing significant increases because of the exceptions provided in Act 1,” said Grove. “While a couple of exceptions will remain, school districts will be required to provide proof of the financial need for the exceptions before approval is granted, and the approval will be based on facts and information instead of being a rubberstamped formality.”
Senate Bill 330 will now go back to the Senate for concurrence before proceeding to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.
In other budget news, Grove’s plan to reduce school construction costs by exempting districts not seeking state reimbursement from approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through its PLANCON process was included as a provision of House Bill 1352. The language, which was originally in Grove’s House Bill 257, would apply to school construction projects and leases not eligible for state reimbursement.
“My proposal is part of the effort to reduce the cost of education by reducing the need to involve state bureaucrats,” said Grove. “If state dollars are not on the line for these construction costs, we should give the school district full authority to proceed without a lengthy and costly authorization process.
House Bill 1352 is now on the governor’s desk.
More information about Grove and his legislative priorities is available at RepGrove.com or Facebook.com/RepSethGrove.
State Representative Seth Grove
196th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Nicole Wamsley