Talk Of Wilkes-Barre Area Tax Hike Shifts To Needs For The Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA  — While the Wilkes-Barre Area School District budget committee continued to discuss a possible 2.9 percent tax increase at a Tuesday noon meeting — talk that prompted stinging rebukes from resident Sam Troy — the tone of the conversation seemed to shift from needing the tax hike to cover a 2014-15 shortfall to needing it to cover future costs.

Business manager Leonard Pryzwara noted the proposed budget sets aside 0.15 mills for debt service, and suggested an annual increase along those lines to cover future repair or construction costs. A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value. The current tax rate is 15.22 mills. A 2.9 percent increase — the maximum allowed at Wilkes-Barre Area this year by state law — would raise the rate to 15.921 mills.

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Pittsburgh School Board OKs 30 Percent Drop In Tax Rate

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As required by state law because of an overall increase in property values, both Pittsburgh Public Schools and the city of Pittsburgh are on course to reduce property tax rates by about 30 percent for calendar 2013.

The school board Wednesday night unanimously approved reducing the rate from 13.92 mills to 9.65 mills.

Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday gave preliminary approval on a unanimous voice vote to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl‘s tax proposal that will drop the millage rate from 10.8 mills to 7.56 mills.  A final vote is set for Tuesday.

Whether the taxes of an individual property owner will go up depends on how the property fared in the countywide reassessment.  Overall, property values in the city went up 48 percent.  If the value of a particular property went up more than that, taxes will increase.  Taxes will decrease if the value went up less than that.

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Shuttered Schools Are Costly To Keep But Selling Them Can Be Unprofitable

When a school’s doors are closed for good, a building that cost millions to build can sit vacant and unused for years until it’s sold for a fraction of its worth.

The state of the economy, zoning laws and the institutional makeup of the structures all make schools a hard sell. And as long as the district owns the building, it has to pay for maintenance even if no warm bodies are moving through the hallways.

Doug Haring, a city real estate appraiser, said selling schools has become brutally expensive.

“Everything is a lot harder to do today, and that translates into more expense,” Haring said, referring to stricter zoning laws and municipal building code restrictions.

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