Everett town halls: The school property tax echo chamber

State Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region, must feel like he is in an echo chamber.

Everett has been conducting a series of town halls within his district recently.

The tone, decibel level and crowd size varies from meeting to meeting, but the message is pretty consistent: Everett’s constituents are at the financial breaking point when it comes to school property taxes.

One property owner put a number on his frustrations. He said his school property taxes have risen 30 percent in the past five years.

Many of those attending Everett’s meetings are elderly constituents on fixed incomes who say the school property taxes keep going up while their income does not.

Everett is on their side.

He has sponsored a bill that would eliminate the school property tax. The problem is, the $14 billion that would need to be raised through another tax has slowed interest in the idea in the Legislature.

There’s a simple reason for that. Lawmakers from more highly populated areas where voters don’t pay property taxes have no interest in eliminating that tax and increasing sales or income taxes.

So the consensus to eliminate a tax that many parts of the state do not levy is nearly impossible to get.

It does not help that the current occupant of the governor’s mansion has made his political bones on the education and public employee special interests. Gov. Tom Wolf is not about to work with the Legislature on cutting the size of the state budget pie – 38 percent – that goes to public education each year.

Every time the Legislature tries to put a rein in the state allocation for public education, a budget impasse results, criticism comes from teachers, administrators and parents statewide and the lawmakers get painted as anti-education.

The fact that Pennsylvania ranks in the nation’s top 10 in state spending per pupil seems not to matter.

Except to the people footing the bill.