Republican Rep. Frank Ryan isn't yet ready to file his School Property Tax Elimination Act, but he continued to tout his plan during a news conference Tuesday, saying now is the time to act.
“I have never seen a more complicated problem to try to resolve and eliminate than the problems with trying to eliminate the school property taxes,” said Ryan, R-Palmyra, a CPA who has been rumored as a future candidate for auditor general. “I will tell you, though, if we fail to bring this to fruition, the issues that will take place in about 12 years for our commonwealth will be insurmountable, and we will regret the fact that we did not act today.”
School property taxes generate about $15 billion in annual income that’s distributed to the state’s local school systems.
Ryan’s plan would create a local personal income tax of 1.85 percent and increase the sales and use tax by 2 percent, which would go directly to fund local school districts. It's a move that Ryan said would give school officials some local control over funding.
It’s the third part of Ryan’s plan that is generating questions. Retirement income, with the exception of Social Security benefits, would be taxed 4.92 percent. Ryan’s plan allocated 3.07 percent of that to the state and 1.85 percent to the local school district.
The new taxes would eliminate the school property tax completely, something that Ryan said needs to be done.
“Without getting rid of this tax, there is no way to get the spending under control,” Ryan said.
Ryan acknowledged his proposal has received some opposition. At a legislative workshop Aug. 13 in York, Tim Schrom of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials told lawmakers that elimination of property taxes was not a viable or sustainable option.
Some Pennsylvania residents will pay more, and large businesses that would also get the tax break would get a “free pass,” Shrom said.
At his news conference, Ryan was flanked by bankruptcy attorney Al Ciardi, psychologist Blake Ringenberg and Jim Rodkey of the Pennsylvania Property Rights Association, who has been an outspoken critic of school property taxes.
“No other tax taxes the same thing over and over again until the taxes on the thing exceed its value and worth,” Rodkey said. “Clinging to any part of the school property tax is to continue to embrace this onerous system of taxation. The current mechanism is so unsustainable that it's not only a threat to our homes, it's a threat to the future of public education.”
Other lawmakers also have been looking at ways to reduce school property taxes, including at the recent workshop in York. Ryan said he would support other legislators’ bills that completely eliminate the school property tax.
Ryan said he won’t introduce the bill until he completes his series of meetings with senior citizens and hears more from his constituents.