Letter: The Act 46 shell game

Editor of the Reformer:

It should surprise no one, least of all our legislators, that we face an expected 8-cent increase in the education tax rate in the coming year. This increase was baked into the Act 46 school merger legislation when voters were offered a short term 10-cent tax "incentive" to follow the merger directive.

As legislators and voters should have known, a tax break is paid for by, yes, taxpayers. If every district in the state merged, we would be facing a 10-cent increase to offset the 10-cent tax break for everyone. Since approximately 80 percent of voters will be getting this tax incentive, we all will be paying the 8-cent increase to cover this. So the quick math to the voters: if your district took advantage of this short term incentive (which were primarily larger, wealthier districts where mergers were relatively easier to implement), you may get a 2-cent net savings. If your district doesn't get the incentive, you get an 8-cent increase to subsidize others.

In either case, the supposed savings of mergers are hard to see in the expected school taxes for the coming year. The 8-cent increase corresponds to the tax breaks used to incentivize voters to support mergers. Take away this 8 cents and you apparently have no other savings that supposedly were expected to result from mergers.

The original impetus for Act 46 legislation was to reduce education taxes. Other justifications arose after education officials admitted the savings may be minimal at best. It looks like at least for this year, the mergers and accompanying incentives are resulting in a tax increase for many and a tiny savings for those who take advantage of the tax incentive.

I hope taxpayers continue to pressure legislators and the Agency of Education to track cost savings (or increases) as a result of merging districts and question if this offsets the loss of local input into our community schools.

Rick Gordon,

Westminster School Board, Dec. 1


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