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Corbett’s Tax Pledge Costs the Rest of Us

Governor promised not to raise taxes but that means everyone else has to.

In 2014, Gov. Tom Corbett will no doubt campaign that he honored his pledge not to raise taxes during his first term. So far, that’s true -- he just made it so everyone else had to raise them.

The screams of anguish and gnashing of teeth you might have heard this spring were school boards throughout the Commonwealth cutting teachers and programs and raising taxes to fill budget gaps. School boards have had to face property owners complaining about another tax increase in a weak economy, plus parents and students angry over program cuts and teacher layoffs. 

Remember, school board members are unpaid, and this year it’s got to feel like they volunteered to be crossing guards on I-78.  

Mind you, Corbett inherited a boatload of tough choices with the state’s budget shortfall of $4.1 billion; some economic pain was inevitable from the Great Recession. But he boxed himself in by pledging during the election not to raise taxes.

Corbett, using outdated figures, recently claimed that districts like Parkland with healthy fund balances should use them to avoid raising taxes.

But districts are depleting their fund balances. Parkland, Easton Area, Allentown and Southern Lehigh are among the Lehigh Valley school districts that are using such money to close budget gaps. The East Penn School Board has had a over whether the district is keeping too much in budgetary reserves.

Besides, it’s good fiscal stewardship for districts to have a reserve to pay for the coming tsunami of public school employee pension costs. Otherwise, how likely is it that the voters will approve 10-15 percent tax hikes when the biggest pension bills come due?

Even with my property taxes increasing both from a school tax hike and next year with Lehigh County’s reassessment, I see school taxes as a bargain.   

If my husband and I had to pay the full freight to send our two kids to school, it would cost us upwards of $22,000 a year, which would eat up a huge chunk of our income. Instead, I look at it as if the cost of paying for school was amortized over our adult lives in the form of school taxes.

But if Corbett and the state Legislature would raise the state income tax for education, that makes more sense than increasing property taxes because property taxes hurt so many seniors who are on fixed incomes but still in their homes. 

So what about the people who have no children or whose kids go to private schools? Well, if you can’t think of public education of all children as a public good, then at least think of your property values. Few things bring down property values faster than troubled schools.

The bigger picture is that my kids and everyone else’s are going to be the workforce that contributes to our Social Security and Medicare.

They will build our bridges and roads, fix our cars, fill our prescriptions, cure our diseases, invent the next big thing, entertain us, protect us and govern us.

Education is their ladder; let’s not hobble it.    

bill frome June 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
The lowest paid teacher in Easton makes $42,000 and like I said before the highest makes $82,000. Thats insane and you people defend them and wonder why we have a budget crisis every year. Plus their benefits only adds to the fire. Can't have your cake and eat it too. Either teachers keep their bloated salaries or they keep their great benefits. The taxpayers cannot afford to pay both nor should we.
truth seeker June 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
So what do you and the teabaggers think the salary range should be? Anything else out there you guys feel tax money is being wasted on besides public workers and their families? I have some problems supporting occupation of middle east countries, foreign aide to those who want to kill us, and subsidies to industries that are raking in huge profits. But that's just me, pherhaps with some proper instruction from you I could be anti-teacher as well. Thanks for the website I've seen it. Take me to the spot where it shows how high Easton teachers are paid being to[p 25% if you get a chance.
Carol June 02, 2012 at 09:19 PM
zeal·ot   [zel-uht] noun 1. a person who shows zeal. How is that insulting? Are you not showing zeal for your views? Are you sensitivite, or are you just out of valid points?
Rosemary B June 03, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I'm sorry, Carol, I just don't think labeling each other is helpful. It just pigeon holes us into stereotypes and it is simply distracting from the real issues.
JBW1984 June 03, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Not to mention Corbett wants districts to use their reserves because the next bill that he wants to pass is for the state to be able to completely take over "financially distressed" districts. EVERY district will be financially distressed once their reserves are dry after the cuts keep occuring. It's a master plan for an education take over. The LAST group of people that are qualified to run schools are congressmen and women who have no background in education.
JBW1984 June 03, 2012 at 03:35 AM
and don't forget who approved those salaries and pay increases.... Publicly voted school board members. Tell me why that salary is insane? The cost to go to a 4 year college just to get a BS degree to be able to teach cost me 30K a year. Plus turning that temporary license into a permanent license after 6 years costs several thousand dollars, not to mention if you get a masters or doctorate. Most of the times when grads spend that type of money they come out of college making 82K a year from day 1.
JBW1984 June 03, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Teachers only have to show up to get paid, there are no performance standards? We get observed atleast twice a year and our observations are based on student performance on the PSSA tests.
bill frome June 03, 2012 at 03:53 AM
James welcome to the real world let me guess I bet you think only teachers have student loans. I got my BA in accounting and my first few years I made 35,000 a year until I got my CPA license. I worked 60 hours a week making $35,000 now I'm making $65,000 working 60 hours plus. I don't have a pension and I pay $750 a month for my benefits. Do you know how much it cost me to get my CPA license??? Unlike teachers in the real world we don't get remibursed by our employer. In Easton teachers have it written into their contracts that they get reimbursed for continuing education and and license fees. Teachers work less than 1500 hours a year. Full time in the private sector is 2080 hours a year (40x52). Another problem I have is most of the teachers don't live within Easton. I think public servants which teachers are should be required to live where they teach to better the community. I'd like to see teachers live in the real world.
bill frome June 03, 2012 at 04:00 AM
James show me a person working in the lehigh valley that starts out at $82,000 a year. Masters or not thats BS. Prove it. I have a masters and my CPA license please show me the $82,000 year jobs. By the way if you take a teachers salary and divide it by the total number of hours they work and then times it by a full year they make over $83,000. Remember teachers only work 8 months of the year. Its written into their contract. Teachers in Easton make between $40-$60 per hour worked. Thats better than lawyers and accountants.
bill frome June 03, 2012 at 04:03 AM
You have to do the work. Its all there for you to do since you want to question my comment. All the information is there lazy.
bill frome June 03, 2012 at 04:19 AM
115 teachers in Easton make more than $70,000 a year and if you add the cost of their pension and benefits it costs the school around $135,000 for each teacher per year. Gee I wonder why they had to layoff 70 jobs last year, 102 this year, and why they will have to layoff more next year. If I was a teacher who got laid off I'd be pissed at their union reps and the teachers who didn't want to renegotiate their contracts. A 10 % cut in pay and a salary freeze would have solved the deficit problems for the next few years. No jobs would be lost or programs for our kids. So a teacher making $70,000 couldn't take a $7,000 paycut to save their fellow teachers and programs for our kids. So ask yourself who is unreasonable the teachers or the taxpayers????
Limeport Resident June 03, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Bill is right that the amount of student debt one accrues should not be a basis of how much anyone should be paid. It should be on benefit to society. Bill seems to be making the case for higher teachers salaries when he says that someone who learns the difference between LIFO and FIFO and proves it in a test, can run a computer to add a bunch of numbers, be paid higher by finding creative ways to mislead stockholder and investors a la Enron, and has no other value can be paid $60K. Shouldn't teachers who train young people to become doctors, physicians, engineers, scientists, and even philosophers, all of whom provide higher value to society be paid more? Off course they should take a hit for training future politicians so poorly, but to have their salaries below that of a CPA? Go back to how much is training our future hope worth? Lets cut CPA salaries at IRS and give it to teachers.
Limeport Resident June 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Bill - how about a starting cardiologist at over $300K/yr? Oncologist, dermatologist, almost any medical specialist -- they all make over $100k (BY A LARGE AMOUNT). Family physicians make $100K/yr starting or just slightly less depending on the practice. PhD engineers make $80K-$100/yr starting. MBa's from an Ivy league make ~$100K/yr but an MBA from lesser schools are barely able to find a job. You are paid what you are worth! Why should a CPA make $80K -- it is bad for the books. I can easily replace him with a $40K salary that can do a better job since he is likely be more current in accounting practice.Hopely, a teacher taught you how to add so that you are a competent CPA.
truth seeker June 03, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Your calculatuion for hours worked is flawed. Believe it or not they do a hell pof a lot of work outside of those hours some of which are required and some of which are needed for correcting, preperation, curriculum development, clasrrom set up etc. And to claim teachers make more than lawyers and accountans shows how desperate you are to bash teachers. Accountants and lawyers have a range of salaries but tons of them make a lot more than teachers. Also, you are going by teachers at the top of the salary at the end of their careers. Looking at the way you work, it's no suprise that so many accountants milsead investors and taxpayers until it is too late.
Robert Sentner June 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
ok here goes, yes ther are teachers that are worth every single penny and more. Growing up I had some great teachers that taught, I also had teachers that were totally useless. the problem is tenure, employee benefits, unfunded mandates, and rediculous schools that we build. Spending all the money we did at the current high school only to know it was a mistake while doing it is just plain stupid, then when the indian creek gold coarse is available for purchase and not purchasing it is another lack of leadership.
truth seeker June 03, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Rob glad to see we can agree on some things.
Mik June 04, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Thank you, Bill for listing this link (http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp)! And to everyone else, keep up the dialog! It's a fabulous (and free) learning tool for those of us just trying to figure out what's really going on.
JS June 04, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I'll go with 2-6, although. However, we need to avoid #1 like the plague...do we really want large consolidated behemoth school districts dominated by cities that will suck funds away from nicer school districts? Yes, there may be some benefit to consolidation, but it would be totally offset by the loss of local control of schools, as well as the inefficiencies inherent to any type of large organization. I'd rather have a small, well run school district that listens to local residents than a monster with multiple levels of management heads that answers to no one.
qflux June 06, 2012 at 12:58 AM
How much should teachers be paid? Less than the people they work for which is the taxpayer. If they dont like it, they can find a different job. When the average teacher is making 50% more than the median income of the state, *plus* a far better benefits package, where exactly do you think the money is going to come from? Maybe you should volunteer to pay a much heftier chunk of tax to support teachers salaries and pensions since you arent one of the "losers" who only make $40k? Also, its a fallacy that parents are "uninvolved". If that guy sounds like he has sour grapes, you sound like a jaded and cynical teacher who is envious because everyone else is "so rich" while you're "stuck" "only" making 50% more than the median income on the taxpayers dime while you do a *mediocre job at best*. PA schools arent well ranked nationally so these school boards are burning through money and under performing. Only civil servants on the dole have that luxury. The "loser" making $40k gets fired the minute he fails to perform.
qflux June 06, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Nice try. Their salaries arent lower, they're actually much higher. Why? Because Bill works 2080 hrs per year *minimum* and has crap benefits. Teachers work 8 months and have *amazing* benefits. But lets break it down in terms maybe any of you who want infinitely increasing teachers salaries (presumably you're teachers), can possibly wrap your minds around. If the Bill's of PA, in their legions, are making $65k and *that* is above the median, how exactly do you feel that teachers should make *more*? Magic money? Print it? Maybe you folks should give 100% of your income to a teacher. Oh wait, thats right. I strongly suspect that anyone here taking the point opposite Bill *is* a teacher. I 'get it'. You've got GREAT gigs and want to preserve them. Guess what? All of us, the taxpayers (you know, your BOSSES that you arent remotely accountable to) used to have great gigs too. Now we dont. We earn less and less every year. Guess what that means? Show is over. Why? The millionaires and billionaires use private schools and tax loopholes. They pay pretty much $0 and dodge taxes any way they can. This means that its time to accept that as the ship of the middle class sinks, you're going to be sinking with it. And of course to cap it all off, PA provides mediocre public education *at best* while providing TOP pay. Utterly ridiculous.
Limeport Resident June 06, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Qflux has a great attitude - that of a loser. According to him, a teacher should be paid less than he is because he can't get a good paying job. If teacher should be paid below the median, should the other 50% also take pay cuts? It used to be that Americans used to have aspirations to do better for themselves and their kids. Now they just want to tear down those who have done better as they lose their own jobs and whose destiny is totally in the hands of their employer.
careless fills June 06, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Most professionals do work many hours besides 9-5. 50 hours per week is not unusual for a professional, and if teachers want to be deemed as professionals as opposed to blue-collar union workers, they should expect the same. On the other hand, anyone who needs to work more rroutinely than 50 hours per week (except on occasional special projects) is either ineffective or inefficient, and perhaps should be counselled to do something else. Otherwise you life will suck, and the effect will be felt by your clientelle.
Robert Sentner June 06, 2012 at 03:47 PM
TS I think we agree on alot more than shows, its just how to get there........ something has to change. A little here and there and EVERYWHERE or slash and burn at some point. I can give you a list of GREAT teachers I had that never got the money or benefits that (some) of the current space taking teachers get. They did it because they enjoyed it.
Liberalism is a mental disorder June 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
That's right... and if the average people who pay taxes are suffering, they should expect PUBLIC employees, who live off taxpayer money, to suffer too. What, are teachers some elite class that gets a pass on all the economic turmoil that is going on?
Liberalism is a mental disorder June 06, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Of course he made cuts. There is no money. Are all you liberals so math challenged?
Liberalism is a mental disorder June 06, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Pay is based on supply and demand in every other area of the economy. There are TONS of extra teachers in PA. The supply is MASSIVE. If you could put an ad in the paper and pay a teacher what they would be willing to take in the market (like everybody else), gym teachers would make $25,000 a year. Getting a teaching degree is EASSSSYYYYY. Every kid who can't figure out what they want to do just shuffles off to Millersville or Kutztown and gets an easy teaching certificate. And Masters degrees for teachers are a JOKE. They are FAR EASIER to get as compared to an MBA, or MS in science or engineering or accounting. Let's quit pretending that teachers are geniuses. Any average HS graduate with 1000 on the SAT's (old two part SAT) can become any type of teacher he/she wants. AND ONCE AN FOR ALL, lets stop this joke where we call them "professionals" and compare them to doctors and lawyers. Only 1% of teachers would have a shot at getting into medical school or law school. Probably not even 1%.
Rosemary B June 06, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Good teachers might deserve $100,000 a yr to start, but that does not mean that it is possible to pay them that. We have to live in the realm of reality. Reality is there is only so much money and only so much you can tax people here in Pa. And reality is that there is a HUGE supply of teachers, Those two realities dictate that maybe teachers should be getting less.
careless fills June 06, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Maybe not 100,000 to start. But I'd get the truely great up there fairly quickly with 10-20% increases. Unfortunately the union contracts don't allow that, and they don't allow you to limit the increases for the below average to hekp counsel them to leave.
Liberalism is a mental disorder June 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
So tell us specifically what you want to cut. Specifically.
Rosemary B June 08, 2012 at 07:47 PM
And those are some of the reasons why union contracts do not work. They treat all workers as if they are worth the same. No incentive to try harder than the next person. Breeds mediocrity.

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