First resort: The city school board too readily raised taxes

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Raising taxes should be a last resort for the Pittsburgh school board. Instead, seven members, including four school directors who were elected just two months ago, have already turned their backs on several money-saving steps and put a heavier burden on the backs of taxpayers.

That’s just wrong.

The board voted Wednesday to raise property taxes by almost 2 percent, the second increase in as many years. For the district, that means $3 million more in revenue than 2013. For the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 after any tax exemptions, it means about $19 more on the tax bill, for a total of $984.

The only no votes came from longtime members Bill Isler and Sherry Hazuda, who have been vigilant in holding down tax rates and reducing district expenses. Veteran members Mark Brentley Sr. and Thomas Sumpter, and two-year member Regina Holley voted yes along with newcomers Sylvia Wilson, Terry Kennedy, Carolyn Klug and Cynthia Falls.

These same members, along with Ms. Hazuda, voted last month to keep the underutilized and costly Woolslair K-5 school open when the district had already started moving toward closing it. The board also rescinded a contract with Teach for America and set up a task force to look into the possibility of taking over the debt-hobbled August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

This school board has a lot of difficult choices ahead, and the members must find creative ways to keep the district solvent while improving student performance. Members need to work harder before they’ll be able to convince property owners that they should be carrying a greater tax load.


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