Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Township Neighbor Raising Taxes for the First Time in 30 Years . . . to Help with Open Land and Historic Preservation Protection

I read an interesting article in yesterday’s Daily Local about one of our neighbors, West Pikeland Township. If you are not sure where West Pikeland is located — this is the location of Chester Springs and historic Yellow Springs in the Rt. 113 area. This is a township that is very protective of open space (West Pikeland Land Trust) and historic preservation (historic Yellow Springs on Art School Road).

West Pikeland Township has increased its land ownership significantly over the last 10 years. The township made a lot of modifications/improvements in the township to satisfy the residents and help the local non-profits, particularly historic preservation. Due to increased open land purchases, a lot of revenue was lost. The township does not have large developments and therefore does not have developers helping with parks and services and no homeowner fees to maintain the parks, etc. This is interesting information because back in November when West Pikeland Township’s Board of Supervisors were discussing the 2010 budget, the community’s residents not only applauded their approval of a motion to increase the property’s taxes but also encouraged the supervisors to raise them higher!

This week the West Pikeland Board of Supervisors voted to reopen the township’s budget in order to increase taxes once again. The board will increase taxes for the first time in approximately 30 years when it moved from 0.125 up to 0.2 mills. But the plan now is to move the tax rate to 0.5 mills, quadrupling the 2009 tax rate. The motion to reopen the budget and increase taxes will be used specifically for maintenance and infrastructure in the township. Although the supervisors recognized that these are difficult times, it was also recognized by supervisors that taxes have not been increased in 30 years. The community residents openly supports continued open land purchases and contributions to preserving historic resources but it is understood that there is also a cost to maintain the township’s infrastructure. Residents currently pay between $30 and $40 per year in property taxes in West Pikeland on the average. Now they will pay between $120 and $160. I know, I know, their property taxes are very low but I am still fascinated that because West Pikeland Board of Supervisors and residents hold open land purchase and historic preservation protection in such high regard, that they will applaud a tax increase that will essentially quadruple the 2009 rate. As an aside, the township cuts its expenses by 10% in the initial budget process.

I offer this as interesting local information on a neighboring municipality. Historic Yellow Springs and the surrounding West Pikeland area offers some of the most beautiful Chester County vistas.

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  1. John is right — West Pikeland has an EIT (1%) and revenue from 2009 was $1.2 million. West Pikeland may be a small, rural township of less than 10,000 people but it is a very active committed resident population. In reviewing information on West Pikeland, it was interesting that in addition to the regular types of boards (Planning, Zoning, Parks & Recreation) West Pikeland also has the following boards:
    Historic Architectural Review Board
    Historic Commission
    Open Space Advisory Board
    Art & Culture Commission
    West Pikeland Land Trust
    Strategic Planning
    Master Plan Committee

    This is one community that really believes in open space, historic preservation and arts & culture and their local government is willing to support the the wishes of their residents.

  2. All roads lead back to an EIT…

    Sounds like an idyllic place. Now I know where I’ll move when I retire, discover an unknown trust fund, or win the lottery. Very low real estate taxes – put the vast majority of the tax burden on those residents with EARNED income.

    I’m curious, why is there such a strong preference for an EIT, rather than a PIT? Granted, an EIT is easier to collect, but at what price, in terms of fairness? If two familes each have $100,000 income, one from earnings, and the other from pension (already exempt from PA tax), interest and dividends, shouldn’t they pay the same local income tax?

    1. You just identified why property tax is the fairest tax. Your property value is directly related to the quality/reputation of schools/parks/police. And that’s what pays for those services. Because of the Sterling Act, the “old economy” never made it prudent to seriously consider an EIT here because so much income was ineligible (earned in the city). Property tax is still fair — as regardless of the millage level in many areas, it’s peanuts compared to the amount of vlaue in your house because of the schools etc. (A TE house in Upper Merion would certainly cost there — location/location/location means schools/schools/schools.) Unless folks living here for a long time are willing to tap equity in their homes (instead of leaving it all to their heirs), they have to pay their fair share for property taxes that keep their home values up. On the other hand, since so many residents earning income now DO pay EIT in neighboring communities, it becomes an appealing option — if anyone could ever get it passed. Thoughts?

  3. John:

    “Probably because and(sic) EIT makes sense.” I can’t let you off that easy. In what way, relative to a Personal Income Tax?

  4. Mike,

    If we instituted a PIT, I’d have to move from Tredyffrin. I’m now retired & I don’t have much retirement income (wiped out by the market & my 401k options weren’t the greatest) other than Social Security.

    I admit “getting away with murder” for all my working life, as we didn’t have an EIT.

    1. Not fairer — just captures the income from the folks who are more likely to be using the services and invested in the quality of the reputation of the comunity (parks for sports teams, schools) — while a PIT affects people who vote :) Also — this particular older generation are depression survivors, so they will sit in a paid for house and say they cannot afford property tax yet have 100% equity in their house. So — a PIT comes after people who want to protect their assets (and around here, it’s often people who have never lived anywhere else and cannot begin to fathom the costs of services in this economy). I’m okay with an EIT. But this community will never vote one in. Did you ever see the hearings the school district had? Private and parochial school parents, single people, empty nesters came out in droves…

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