Key Coverage

‘Crushing’ School Taxes
As Pa. Districts Struggle For Money, Residents Find Their Rising Tax Bills Alarming

When it comes to funding schools, all of Pennsylvania’s 500 districts rely primarily on the property tax, and the tax burden on homeowners varies widely from district to district, even in the same county.

In the Philadelphia region, some of the state’s most struggling districts are a short trip down the road from easy affluence.

An example: In Radnor, a Delaware County district with prime residential real estate, a corporate sector and bustling business strip, local sources contributed about $19,400 per student enrolled in its schools in 2012-13, the most recent year available, according to state data. All told, local property owners funded 88 percent of the $82 million budget. And there is so much property wealth that they raise that money with a tax rate that’s less than half of what the Washingtons pay.

But head south a few exits via the Blue Route to the impoverished Chester-Upland School District, also in Delaware County, and local tax efforts raised just $2,900 per student in 2012-13, according to the state. That meant that local taxpayers funded just 18 percent of the district’s $113 million budget, leaving schools almost entirely dependent on state aid.