Friday, May 20, 2011

EASD: What Happened to the Casino Money?

Was the Sands Casino supposed to off-set property taxes for the school district?

Posted by: Noël Jones

Colin McEvoy of the Express-Times reports that the Easton Area School District and the teachers' union have come to a tentative agreement that will save the district $25 million dollars so that 160 teachers don't have to get laid-off this year. The deal involves an extension of the contract, but how much has not been announced.

If you read the comments posted to the article, opinions4u asked a question that reminded me of something that I've been meaning to follow-up on for a while now:

"My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but wasn't there suppose to be some sort of rebate due related to casino revenue?"

I commented in response, letting him/her know that at a school board meeting last year when the budget was as much a hot mess as it is this year, Pat Vulcano the one valuable thing I have heard him say in
the sum total of all school board meetings I have attended: where's the casino money? He went on to explain that Easton residents were originally told that Easton's share of the Sand's Casino money would be used to off-set property taxes in the Easton Area School District, and he was upset, and if I remember correctly, said that the money had been siphoned off by the city, and that no one was calling them out on it.

Does anybody out there know the details? Was this a referendum where residents were promised property tax relief that has not been delivered? Please post a comment if you remember voting on this, and what was promised.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought only the five towns adjacent to the casino were ever eligible for casino revenue? Meaning Bethlehem, Lower Saucon Township, Hanover Township, Freemansburg and Hellertown?

Anonymous said...

As someone who rents, I haven't been as in tune as people who own property. Casino gambling was "sold" to Pennsylvanians with the argument that it would reduce property taxes. I believe that for several years, for those who lived in school districts which opted in, they received a rebate, EASD included. I don't know if that continues to be the case. Given that 50% of the revenues go to the state, I question what happened to all that money.

noel jones said...

Anons--thanks for posting and for the info--and please make up a moniker for yourself for future comments, because I have a feeling we're going to get a lot of Anons chiming in on this one...

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
I don't know where the idea of casino money going to the school districts came from but I have never heard of anyhting like that.

Here's my history. Easton wasn't at the table when the formula for distributing slot money was decided hence we got nothing and Allentown and Bethlehem got it all. Bethlehem rightfully so becasue they ar ethe host municipality. Allentown however is another county and we are the county seat of the casino.

When I got in office in 2008 and learned of the potential of table games I immediately got on board to fight for a share if in fact they became a reality. I even testified before the casino commission on PCN. I found three friends -- Senators Browne of Allentown and Boscola of Bethlehem as well as Bethelehm Mayor John Callahan. They all agreed that although they could not open the formula for slots that Easton would be included in the local share. This year we expect about $500,000 from the table games to come to Easton.

We have also been very successful in the competitive portion of the Monroe County gaming money generated by Mount Airy. We have received in the last two years 2 economic development grants in the amount of $250,000 each for Easton projects.

Where the idea that casino money wa to go to school districts I don't know but no where in the law do I know of a provision that ever mentioned that they receive a share.

Anonymous said...

(I'm Anon 11:53 A.M.)

Obviously Sal is correct, and deserves credit for his efforts to get the casino distributions. Below is a link to an article that references the property tax rebate measure to which I was referring.

http://www.ydr.com/ci_18029055

It appears that property owners can go through an extremely difficult process to get $150 in property tax relief on a bill of $2,500.

noel jones said...

Mayor, and Anon 11:53, thanks for posting!

dbw said...

I guess the mayor should ask pat vulcano about where that idea came from, because apparently he got it from somewhere...

fact is,
many cities across the country DO divert this revenue stream into the schools, but it is not a law, merely a sort of common practice. it could be diverted into whatever a city finds it useful for...such as street cars, police and fire equipment, or funding for gambling addiction clinics.

noel jones said...

Anon 9:24-- said:

"It appears that property owners can go through an extremely difficult process to get $150 in property tax relief on a bill of $2,500."

and s/he posted a link to article--I am pasting the text of this article below. Maybe I'm not reading it right, but it sounds like although this article is written for Lancaster County, that all school districts are supposed to be getting property tax relief from the State of PA, and that that should translate to $149 automatically subtracted from our tax bills each year:

"While the state is planning significant cuts to education funding for Lancaster County public schools next year, one state revenue source that isn't declining is tax-relief money.

Pennsylvania expects to pump $18.6 million in casino revenue into property tax relief for county residents in 2011-12 - about the same amount it provided in the current school year.

That revenue is expected to translate into an average school tax break of $149 for every qualified property in the county - a decline of $1 from the average reduction for the 2010-11 school year.

While the amount of revenue earmarked for the county is about the same for 2011-12, more properties qualified for tax relief in the coming school year than in the current year, so the average declined.

The projected 2011-12 tax cuts vary by school district, ranging from $64 per property in Eastern Lancaster County, where the average 2010-11 tax bill is $1,760, to $425 in School District of Lancaster, where the average homeowner pays $2,857 in school taxes.

The projected tax breaks are unchanged for next school year in six districts, will rise slightly in two districts and will decline by $1 to $9 per property in nine districts.

Statewide, about $612 million has been earmarked for school property tax relief in 2011-12, with the average tax bill expected to decline by $200, according to state officials.

In each school district, every property qualifies for the same reduction, regardless of its assessed value. The reductions will be subtracted directly from school tax bills mailed out this summer.

The $149 cut for next school year represents about 5.8 percent of the total average tax bill in Lancaster County.

It is the lowest average reduction since the tax relief program began in 2008-09. Tax breaks that year averaged $153, increased to $155 the following year and declined to $150 in 2010-11.

Residents who aren't sure if their property is registered for the tax relief program can check with their school district business office or the county property assessment website.

To reach the site, go to www.co.lancaster.pa.us and select 'Property Assessment' under 'select a department.' Then click on 'homestead/farmstead exclusion' and follow the prompts."

noel jones said...

btw, this article was from the Intelligencer Journal on line, dated May 10, 2011.

Jana Jani said...

I like Casino game. But my husband and family forbade to play it. Please tell me how I can to convince them for playing casino in a gclub
thank you