State College

State College school board to form tax relief committee

The State College Area school board agreed Monday to create an ad hoc committee to establish a property tax relief program for district taxpayers.

Board members proposed the program last year after they heard resident concerns about the tax increase associated with the State High project slated to start in the summer.

The 2015-16 preliminary budget calls for a 5.7 percent tax increase — an increase of about $160 for the average homeowner, said district business manager Randy Brown.

District administration was asked in October to begin studying the possibility of a relief program.

Using data from other school districts with tax relief programs, district business administrators and the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance researched a rebate program and an exchange program, in which recipients would perform volunteer work for the district. Administrators and the committee leaned toward a rebate program for eligible residents.

According to district spokesman Chris Rosenblum, based on data from local municipal officials, “district officials estimate that 300 to 400 individuals in the district, based on 2010 census data and state rebate criteria, would qualify for a tax rebate, giving back about $300,000 per year.”

Brown called those figures “an estimate.”

Brown unveiled a proposal that — with proof of tax receipts — would start July 1 for eligible residents 65 or older as of Dec. 31, 2014; a widow or widower during all or part of 2014 and 50 or older as of Dec. 31, 2014; and permanently disabled and 18 or older during all or part of 2014.

Residents also must have had an annual combined income of $35,000 or less in 2014.

But that could change as board members brought up concerns about limitations and how to handle them.

“The program size is going to be a real challenge,” said member Scott Fozard.

The committee, made of three or four board members and the district’s finance department, will meet on a regular basis to help draft a program that would benefit the community and district, said board President Amber Concepcion.