With tax money collected for Allentown’s hockey arena being returned to the Parkland School District, the district dodged a bullet – or at least a puck.
At Tuesday’s Parkland board meeting, John Vignone, director of business administration, said as part of the state budget deal, Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone or NIZ will have to give back the Earned Income Tax dollars collected from suburban commuters.
That means Parkland will get back about in the first quarter of the year. But more important to the district, Parkland and other localities will be left out of the funding equation for the NIZ in the future, officials said. The district’s annual projected loss of tax revenue was about $200,000, which they feared would increase over time.
“It’s a huge relief,” said Parkland School Board member Roberta Marcus. “We were the second largest loser in the county. It’s an inappropriate use of our dollars.”
Marcus said Superintendent Richard Sniscak and other district officials spent a lot of time talking to legislators about concerns over the loss of tax revenue and the state budget’s effects on the schools. “I think at the end of the day it made a difference,” she said.
Berkheimer Associates, Allentown’s tax collector, released figures in June that showed the city’s special downtown tax zone -- created to fund the new hockey arena and other improvement projects – would collect about $1.8 million from outside municipalities, according to The Morning Call.
For the first quarter of this year, Parkland lost about $48,663 in earned income tax revenue from people who live in its municipalities -- South Whitehall, Upper Macungie and North Whitehall -- but work in Allentown. The municipal governments also lost money to the NIZ. For South Whitehall, it was $15,270, Upper Macungie, $21,066 and North Whitehall, $12,324.
Several municipalities and a school district joined a lawsuit against the project but since the budget settlement many have either dropped the suit or indicated they would, according to the Morning Call.
The school board also learned Tuesday that the final state budget would include $72,408 more in Accountability Block Grant funding for Parkland than the district budgeted. That money will mean the district has to take less from its fund balance, officials said.
One of the biggest concerns Vignone had about the final state budget was that there was no increase in money for Special Education for the fifth consecutive year. “This is one of our most worrisome areas of school funding because of the high cost,” he said.