Study Quashes Pa. School District Consolidation as Means to Lower Taxes

A new Pennsylvania report dismisses the notion that merging all of the school districts in York County would save taxpayers' money.

York County state lawmakers asked the Independent Fiscal Office to consider the issue, frequently cited as a possible solution to climbing property tax rates to support schools.

"Generally, every town hall meeting we had people ask, 'Why not consolidate school districts?'" said Rep. Seth Grove, R-York.

The IFO report, made public this week, concludes that going from 15 school districts to one would mean a big loss in state funding for the county and minimal savings in administrative costs. It also finds a consolidation would result in higher taxes for people with middle-of-the-pack properties and incomes.

"I have no doubt I'll still have people ask about it," said Grove. "The simple answer is ... there's no savings to actually reduce taxes, and that was the big gauge in the whole consolidation debate."

Grove said he thinks York County residents are keen on consolidation because of their proximity to Maryland, where school districts are countywide. (Baltimore City is treated as a county under Maryland law, and has its own school district.)

The IFO report also notes large wealth disparities in the county – mostly between York City and its more suburban school districts. For Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, that was the most important revelation in the report.

Schreiber represents school districts on either end of the wealth scale. York City School District had the least taxable income in the county in 2012-13. In the same year, York Suburban School District had the greatest taxable income, more than four times York City's. (The IFO report adjusted both figures for student population.)

"There's some pretty gross disparity in York County that should be alarming," said Schreiber.

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