Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did the School Board Make a Mistake?

The recent board decision to accept the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) offered by Pennswood Village drew some sharp criticism from the public. An angry Flowers Mill resident chided the board by saying "I can't see how you can go home tonight and face yourselves." Another citizen said the board should have challenged Pennswood Villages claim of tax exemption. You can read this Courier Times article for more details.

It's easy to understand why people are upset. Pennswood Village pays Neshaminy about $650,000 each year in school property taxes. Under the PILOT agreement, that amount will be reduced to $550,000 next year; $450,000 the following year; and $350,000 in the final year of the agreement. Who gets to make up the difference - YOU DO! So the question becomes, did the school board drop the ball by not challenging Pennswood Village's tax exemption?

Despite the understandable frustration of the public, the Neshaminy School Board made the right call. If they refused to accept the PILOT offer, Neshaminy's operating budget would have been in the red by $650,000 instantly. It's better to get something than nothing.

Yes, the school board could have chosen the path of litigation and challenged the State's ruling that led to Pennswood Village's tax exemption, but that would likely have taken years in court and carried a hefty price tag with it - again, to be paid by Neshaminy homeowners.

And when considering the board's wisdom in accepting Pennswood's offer, remember that they approved the decision unanimously (8-0); for our oft-dysfunctional board to be in total agreement says that the facts clearly show discretion to be the better part of valor. Board President, Rick Eccles, said it best: "It's unfortunate that we're being put in this situation . . . but it was a business decision."

Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but the problem here isn't Neshaminy or Pennswood Village. The real problem is our antiquated method of funding education through property taxes. Harrisburg owes us a better solution than that, but don't hold your breath.

And give the Neshaminy School Board a pass on this one - they made the correct decision.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Funding Public Education

We are so preoccupied as a community by our school property taxes that we forget what the issue at hand is - how to subsidize our public schools. And until Harrisburg gives us a funding method that doesn't unfairly burden property owners, education programs will be sacrificed in favor of more reasonable property taxes. Unfortunately the alternatives offered to Bucks County residents only add to the burden.

They gave us Act 72, then Act 1, and now it's HB1600. These are some of the attempts at property tax reform given to us by Harrisburg; the first two went down to overwhelming defeat at the hands of the public and HB1600 is probably not too far behind. The problem with all these bills is that for most homeowners in Bucks County, they will pay more in increased income taxes than they will receive from property tax reductions.

Confused? You should be . . . currently there are approximately 11 measures being considered in Harrisburg to "reform" taxes, and the majority of them will increase the tax burden on Bucks County homeowners. Doesn't sound much like reform, does it? There is one bill authored by State Rep Sam Rohrer of Reading (pictured above), HB1275, that sets out to do the one thing the others do not - ELIMINATE school property taxes. HB1275 looks to broaden the existing sales tax base (not increase sales tax, just expand the items that are taxable) and increase state income tax by .85%. In exchange, HB1275 forever eliminates your school property taxes. Do the math . . . if you're a homeowner, you'll save a bundle. If you need help, here's a property tax calculator.

In order for HB1275 to be enacted, it must have the support of our locally elected representatives. Write to our friends in Harrisburg and tell them to support HB1275. Call them on the phone. Tell them not to give us tax reform measures that will increase the burden on Bucks County Homeowners. Whatever you do, don't do NOTHING. Contact your representative today!

You can contact State Rep Chris King by going to the following site; State Senator Tommy Tomlinson can be reached via

If you get any feedback from one of our representatives, please add comments to this post so that everyone can see what's being said.


I hope you will enjoy this new site. This blog will be a little different from what we used to publish on - I intend on being very issue-focused in my updates, and I want YOU to tell me what you think by adding comments under each post. This will be the best way for you to communicate with me. You can also reach me via email at

Thank you to everyone who supported my candidacy for school board. I pledge to bring my "A" game every single day to help make Neshaminy a better place for our students. You can help me by staying in touch, telling me what's on your mind, and showing up once in a while at board meetings.

William O'Connor