Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Is EIT the answer for T/E School District — Tax Study Group Presents their Pros & Cons

Election Day is Tuesday and based on campaign mailers, signs and general rhetoric that we were voting on the Earned Income Tax. The EIT is not an issue for us on Election Day, at least not this election.

Much of this campaign discussion on the EIT stems from T/E School Board decision to form a Tax Study Group as part of their budget development process. The goal of the committee of eight volunteers, including Michael Abele, Michael Benning, Rita Borzillo, Marie Falcone, William Mullin, Terri Smith, Andrew Snyder and Edward Stevens, was to study the effect that an EIT would have on the residents and the school district and provide the pros and cons.

The Tax Study Group held 5 public workshop meetings and presented their findings yesterday at two public meetings. Based on the Tax Study Group’s findings, the school board will make a decision whether to include the EIT question on the April 2012 ballot. If the EIT question is placed on the primary election ballot in April, community members will hopefully be able to make an informed decision.

Although I was not able to attend the EIT meeting due to a prior commitment, it is my understanding that both were well attended. I am on record as saying that I believe the process for a fair and open discussion of the Earned Income Tax has been tainted by the last few weeks of campaign politics from school board candidates. Serious economic issues are going to continue to affect our school district and cause many challenges to the school board facing the 2012-13 budget and teacher negotiations.

If you were unable to attend either of yesterday’s public meetings by the Tax Study Group, the EIT presentation will be aired on TETV, Comcast Channel 14 and Verizon Channel 20 at 9 PM daily from November 4 through November 14.

Ray Clarke attended yesterday’s Tax Study Group and offers his candid remarks from the presentation:

The Tax Study Group matinee played to a packed house – probably a hundred or more residents in attendance. I whole-heartedly encourage anyone interested in the fiscal and educational future of T/E to attend the evening performance. Of the 30 slides, two thirds are devoted to background – really important to place the discussion in its proper context. The pros and cons of the EIT were fairly presented, although not weighted nor compared directly to alternatives (it was not the TSG mandate to do that). The audience seemed engaged throughout, and the questions at the end added much to the discussion.

The elephant in the room: what will be the attitude of the Townships? Will they take 50% of any money the voters may want to apply to their children’s education? Easttown and Tredyffrin may be very different, and I think we all need to have a very long memory about campaign promises made by Tredyffrin Supervisors. (The $30 million TESD fund balance did not go unremarked as a short-term support).

A lot of hard work and thought went into the research and analysis, and in developing a communication that is accessible to everyone. Shows how important the process was and what a travesty it is to try to short-change it. Hopefully many voters will be able to see the evening performance or the video and draw their own conclusions.

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  1. I find it surprising that a .pdf version of the presentation is not yet on the district’s web site. Also, it would be more convenient if the meeting video was available as a download from the district’s web site. That way the meeting could be viewed at any convenient time, plus, interesting sections could be replayed for clarification.

  2. Let’s remember that an EIT/PIT was overwhelmingly rejected in 2007 when it was a dollar for dollar replacement for RE taxes and there was no possibility that the townships could claim a share of the proceeds. The current EIT proposal has the flaws that it is an additional tax and one that may be claimed by the townships at any time. Regardless of the merits of the current EIT proposal I think it was politically DOA many months ago.

  3. The teacher’s contract negotiations should not be tied to the issue of an EIT. On the whole, the teachers in the district are very good teachers. They are also compensated very well especially when the pension and healthcare benefits are factored into the equation. An EIT used to justify paying outdated salary increases to teachers will be DOA. If 100% of the proceeds goes towards keeping current programs and adding future programs of benefit for the students, then the EIT might have a fighting chance.

    The teacher’s need to sacrifice as well. I am not talking about salary reductions but think the raises should be much less than historical norms.

    1. Sorry, but life doesn’t work that way. The teachers want their money more than educational excellence and worthy programs. All you have to do is look at how they killed the on-line learning program this year…

      1. Thanks FTW — and look at the current grievance against teaching 6 periods. The teachers do not think for themselves. I wrote elsewhere — there is a slave and plantation mentality that the state PSEA advocates. Teachers are victims of an unfair master — the school board. Teachers are owed free health care, tenure, salaries and pensions. They do hard work and they do it well — but there is no differentiating between those that do it well and poorly. There is no ability to reduce the raises already in place. There is no way to control health care costs by adding to the “co pay” when in fact the district still must negotiate FOR the plan that they teacher’s demand in a contract setting.
        And this isn’t a SINGLE teacher, this is the “COLLECTIVE” teacher, with the PSEA serving as the head of the beast. When you victimize your own membership (which many unions do), you set yourself up as the champion of the downtrodden — who are NOT downtrodden, but are part of the statewide power base. Individually, a teacher would probably be more likely to feel empathy with taxpayers and parents, but collectively, they unite in their own defense.

    2. I completely agree with you, MD. My family and I would be significantly impacted by an EIT. While we are opposed to a new tax, we would be less opposed to it if we knew that it would go 100% to the programs and not to fund the historically high teacher salary increases through regular raises and “step” raises. Total raises of double digits (regular raises and step increases) just doesn’t sit well with me and others who are facing real economic issues. I just don’t have confidence that the school board won’t cater to the union again during the next contract negotiations, especially after the luxurious contract that was approved last time around.

  4. At every level of government, from school districts, local, state and federal the habit of offering services without payment is quickly coming to an end. The kingdoms and queendoms created in these entities must be dismantled. That is the only way to truly get our costs under control. Increasing taxes really is just a short-term band aid.

    While I think TE is run fairly well compared to others, I would bet there are inefficiencies that could be ended but are so institutionalized that it takes a literal disaster to force change.

    Look at the amount of PR people who are employed by the Philly school district.

    We are in a mess from top to bottom. Both parties are to blame. Only so many checks can be written before payment is due and you can only go to the same parties for payment so many times until they say no more. That is where we are at now.

  5. West

    That is how they mark their territory. It happens all over in the non-corporate world. Teacher’s are not the only ones who fall prey to that type of thinking.

    Is there any way an EIT can be established without a vote from the residents?

    1. An EIT for the school district requires a voter referendum. This requirement does not exist for the Board of Supervisors — they can impose an EIT without a vote from residents.

  6. Thank you Pattye. Could the Board of Supervisors implement an EIT and state that the proceeds only go to the TE school district? Is that structurally possible?

    Incredible information on this site and all sides seem to get a fair hearing.

    1. That’s an interesting question — could township revenue from an EIT to to the school district? Even if it were possible, with the municipal government facing economic challenges, I don’t see that it is likely that they would implement an EIT and turn around and give it all the school district. One of the problems (as we have seen during these campaign season) is that there is an unwillingness for supervisor or school board candidates (or frankly, those that are already serving) to risk any political capital over increasing taxes (or adding a new tax, EIT). Anymore, it seems that once a candidate is elected, many become focused on the ‘next election’ and not losing votes on their watch. This isn’t intended as an indictment on all our elected officials, just the ones that have lost their ability to be independent-thinkers.

      1. No. If the township(s) impose an EIT (which they can do up to 1%) the money is their money and their money alone. In order for the school district to get their allowable half, the establishment of such must go to public vote.

        I would imagine that if the townships were ALREADY taking the 1%, a vote to have half of it go to the school district would easily pass. It is the vote for the creation of the tax that I do not see passing.

        1. Willistown has an EIT — Great Valley does not get any part of it — so I think youa re absolutely right.

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