Make the Case to Voters

My letter to the editor in today’s Post-Gazette on school tax referendum.

The article “Groups Fighting Changes to School Tax Referendums” (May 25) notes the Pennsylvania School Boards Association’s contention that school districts may need to raise property taxes to continue to maintain important educational services. I’m wondering why they can’t make this case to voters in those school districts.

Indeed, every other state limits the ability of school boards to raise taxes, most through giving voters say on school budgets or property tax increases. In fact, in states like Ohio, more often than not, voters approve tax increases — but only when school officials justify their spending to voters.

While the school boards association makes the claim that most spending by districts is done responsibly, it is curious they are going to reporters and state legislators to maintain exemptions rather than demonstrating fiscal restraint to the residents in their own districts. In the five years since Act 1, thanks in large part to the exemptions, only 12 out of 500 school districts have actually held a referendum on property tax increases.

Voters in Pennsylvania deserve the right those in other states enjoy: the final say on all school tax increases.