186 Pennsylvania school districts apply for exceptions to tax-hike ceiling

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More than 180 Pennsylvania school districts have applied to the state Department of Education for exceptions to the Act 1 limit on real estate tax increases.

Another 311 districts, which operate on a July 1-Dec. 30 fiscal year, have indicated they will not raise taxes beyond their legal limit, according to a press release today from the state education department.

Each September, the education department calculates a school district's Act 1 index based on a formula that includes the average weekly wage for the preceding year and the employment cost index for elementary and secondary schools. School districts with lower wealth may have a higher index.

The four areas for which school districts can apply for exceptions are: school construction debt incurred before June 30, 2011, school construction debt approved by voters, special education costs, and retirement expenses.

Of the 186 applications for exceptions, 171 requests were approved while 15 districts must take their proposed tax hikes to a voter referendum.

Among the 186 districts are those in Ambridge, Bethel Park, Clairton, Ellwood City, Mt. Lebanon, South Fayette and West Allegheny.

Though districts seek exceptions, they do not always raise taxes to the full amount for which they are approved.

In the 2012-13 school year, 197 districts applied for $159.9 million in exceptions, but only 105 district used them for a total of $48.2 million.

In 2011-12, 228 school districts applied for a total of $265.8 million, but just 135 districts used them for a total of $95.5 million.

Districts have until June 30 to approve their final budgets and set their tax rates for 2013-14.

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Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590. First Published April 30, 2013 5:15 PM


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