French Creek Township Could See Significant School Tax Increase | News

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VERNON TOWNSHIP, Crawford County — A tax increase of more than 15 mills could await landowners in Mercer County’s only municipality in the Crawford Central School District — and that’s if the district approves a budget with no tax increase This year.

In contrast, a budget that included the maximum tax increase of 4.8% would increase taxes for French Creek Township residents by almost 22%, or more than $380 per year for the owner of a property assessed at median value of the canton.

The rural township of French Creek is in the far northeast corner of Mercer County, bisected by State Road 173.

District officials went to great lengths on Monday to explain the seemingly absurd situation looming on the horizon as council members begin considering the 2022-23 budget.

The arcane tax formulas used to even out the division of district taxes between municipalities in two counties may have been difficult to fathom, but the message was clear to property owners in Mercer County, according to French Creek Township Supervisor , Kathy Graham.

“It doesn’t sound good at all for French Creek Township – again,” Graham said Tuesday after hearing about the Crawford Central reunion. Graham was unable to attend the school board meeting due to a township meeting. She said she was also unaware that the discussion of the Act 1 index on the council agenda would involve a presentation on the issue that she and other French Creek residents have raised. repeatedly raised concerns over the past year.

Because Crawford Central is one of 89 multi-county school districts in the state, the mileage rates applied to residents of either county are periodically rebalanced. Ahead of the 2022-23 budget, which is due for approval by June 30, commercial director Guy O’Neil told council members that “an unusual change has occurred in the percentage of market values” .

As a result of this change, the District’s current method of equalizing mileage rates would result in a 16.2% increase for the Township of French Creek, increasing the mileage rate from 96.11 to 111.74 for the next year.

If the district approves a tax increase of 4.8%, the maximum allowed without voter approval, the rate for French Creek Township could skyrocket to 117.11 mils. Such a large tax increase would be unusual given the district’s recent tax history. Crawford Central has not approved a maximum tax increase since 2013.

The source of the sharp fluctuation in value was unclear.

“Something must have sold,” Superintendent Tom Washington told the board.

The state equalization formula takes into account the relationship between market values ​​and taxable values. A few high-priced property sales have little effect on the overall value of Crawford County’s more than 16,000 district properties. With just 244 properties, however, a few large sales could have a bigger impact on French Creek Township values, according to O’Neil.

The prospect of a 16.2% mileage increase for French Creek Township residents comes after several years in which the state’s equalization formula has left some feeling the township has repeatedly gotten the worst of it. of rebalancing. When the council passed a budget with no tax increases for Crawford County residents in 2020, Mercer County residents saw their mileage rate increase by 1.14 mils.

In 2019, the board considered increasing Crawford County’s mileage rate by 0.49 mils. If this had been the case, the rebalancing would have resulted in a decrease of 2.11 mils for residents of the Township of French Creek. When the council instead approved a budget with no mileage increase, Mercer County’s rebalancing did not happen and residents missed out on what would have been a 2.3% decrease. Instead, their rates remained constant.

Crawford Central School Board member Jeff Rose expressed sympathy for residents of French Creek who called on board members to address what they said was a disparity in tax rates for county district residents. of Crawford and Mercer.

“I can see why they’re upset,” Rose said.

O’Neil explained that Crawford Central has used the same formula to equalize rates between the two counties for more than 20 years and that the vast majority of multi-county districts use the same process. He noted that various other formulas are available, however.

Under the current formula, a resident of the Crawford County District who owns a property valued at $30,000 pays $1,634 in property taxes each year. A Mercer County resident who owns a property valued at $30,000, on the other hand, pays $2,883 each year.

The $1,249 difference is more complicated than it first appears, according to O’Neil.

“Each county values ​​real estate differently,” he said in an email. A property valued at $30,000 in Crawford County might not be valued at the same value in Mercer County, he suggested.

“The two counties impose totally different taxes,” Washington told the board. “That’s what’s causing the problem.”

Crawford County last conducted a countywide reassessment in 1969. Mercer County dates back to 1970.

In a comparison of three other equalization methods, two of the three increased the gap slightly. The fourth, however, established a single rate for residents of both counties. This would bring the annual tax rate on a Crawford County property valued at $30,000 up to $23 each year to $1,657. A property owner in French Creek Township, meanwhile, would see the tax on a $30,000 property drop by $1,226.

With council expected to approve a draft budget in May, O’Neil said any changes to the district’s approach to reconciling rates between the two counties must happen soon.

Graham said she plans to advocate for French Creek Township landowners at upcoming meetings.

“If they’re going to change, it has to be soon,” she said. “I realize that still doesn’t look good for us.”

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at [email protected].

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