Some lawmakers are getting ready to take the state to court to challenge the school funding formula. Representatives Mario Scavello and Rosemary Brown, who represent parts of Monroe and Pike Counties, are initiating the suit. They have backing from colleagues in other areas of the state that are seeing growth.
The suit will challenge the hold harmless provision. Since 1991, it has required that school districts get no less money than the year before, regardless of student population. The lawmakers say that has been hurting growing districts, while benefitting districts with shrinking student populations.
Representative Brown says enough is enough; it’s time this outdated formula is challenged. She says she will not accept that it can’t be changed. She says realtors are having trouble selling homes because of property taxes.
Representative Scavello says the school property tax rates in his district have made people prisoners in their own homes. He cited an example he’s often repeated- a home bought for 250 thousand dollars five years ago, that’s worth 150 thousand dollars today and has an 11 thousand dollar property tax bill on it. He says the Pocono Mountain School District last year raised taxes per house between 400 and 500 dollars. He says we just can’t continue to do things like this.
Representative Scavello says he’s paying the legal fees out of his own pocket.
Brown and Scavello had support from other lawmakers in districts facing similar problems. Representative Ron Miller (R-York) says they’ve tried to change the education funding formula in the legislature, but it’s “very hard to convince people to take money from their constituents to help ours.”
Representative Stan Saylor (R-York) agrees. The house majority whip says people aren’t willing to give up money that flows into their school districts and keeps their property taxes very low.
Representative Scavello says there will be a taxpayer from every school district involved in the suit and he expects it will take 90 to 120 days before the suit is filed, to allow time to gather all of the information. The suit was announced at a news conference.