5 Fixes for Property Tax Fires

Yesterday, I testified before the House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform, presenting on the best tax policy to finance government operations, and on ways to help school districts and local governments reduce spending, and in turn property taxes.

Among the spending areas I addressed were pension reform, school choice, and prevailing wage reform. Two additional solutions bear additional discussion.

First, collective bargaining reforms like those adopted in Wisconsin would help save taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. I pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal article that notes Milwaukee public schools saved more than $100 million this year alone, just by changing health care benefits for retirees. Prior to the law, health care benefits both for current employees and retirees could be dictated by labor contracts—as can be the case in Pennsylvania. The new law removes this from contract negotiations, and gives school boards and local elected officials the ability to shop for the most affordable health coverage plan for employees.

Second, I discussed shifting state education subsidies from our current model to weighted student funding. Our current basic education funding formula starts with “hold harmless”—meaning every district receives what it got last year. Student enrollment and other factors are only considered in doling out increases. This harms growing districts, while protecting declining districts from making necessary reductions in staff and buildings. Weighted student funding would award state dollars based on student enrollment—with higher payments for low-income and special needs students that cost more to educate.

Today, Capitolwire reports that the Corbett administration is in fact looking at weighted student funding, quoting Budget Office spokesman Jay Pagni:

“WSF is a way to allocate dollars based on the type of students a district is serving and to ensure students coming with more educational challenges have more resources behind them to address those challenges. So step one is to allocate dollars along WSF model.”

Indeed, weighted student funding is a better way to fund education, and prioritizes students over staff. It is a particularly important reform if Pennsylvania lawmakers choose to shift funding away from property taxes to other state revenue sources.

To read my full testimony, click here.