Luzerne County school districts will be restricted to raising taxes in a range of 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent in 2019-20, according to the new “Act 1 index” numbers released Friday by the state Department of Education. With a cap of 2.7 percent, Dallas has the lowest limit among the 11 districts, while Greater Nanticoke Area has the highest at 3.5 percent
The index was created by Act 1 of 2006, the state law that promised to use money from legalized gambling to offset school property taxes. As part of that promise, the state created the annual index, calculated through a complex formula intended to take into account a district’s tax base and other local fiscal factors.
The index can vary from district to district and year to year. It can only be exceeded if the district gets voter approval in the primary election, or if the district applies for and gets state approval under a limited number of exceptions.
Area school board members have frequently complained that while they do not want to raise taxes, the limits do not allow them to raise enough money to pay for escalating costs not under their control and often the result of state action. Pension fund payments have been a frequently cited example. A state agency manages the pension fund and sets the amount a district must put into it each year, and that rate has escalated dramatically in the last decade or more.
Administrators and school boards have routinely called for an increase in state funding to keep local property taxes down.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish