Act 1: Part II – Front End Referendum

I previously wrote (Part I.a.Part I.b.)about the Tax Study Commissions recently appointed by Pennsylvania School Districts, to discuss what the Commissions are and what they will be doing. As those Commissions carry on their work now, we begin to turn to the next step in the process – the front end referendum.

The Act’s Front End Referendum requirement is mandatory for all School Districts. Once the Tax Study Commission makes its non-binding recommendation regarding proposed tax shifting, the School Board then must adopt a Resolution by March 13, 2007 to authorize either an Earned Income Tax or Personal Income Tax to fund Homestead tax exclusions. The proposed Front End Referendum must be submitted to the County Board of Elections no later than sixty days prior to the Primary Election. Importantly, only one question is allowed in the proposed Front End Referendum to be placed on the ballot. In other words, the ballot cannot include several options from which the public may choose.

The Front End Referendum as proposed by the School Board must also include an Interpretive Statement, which District officials must discuss with County officials. The proposed Front End Referendum question then must be posted and advertised (i.e. public advertisement once a week for three consecutive weeks), and state the purpose, limitations and its effects as part of the Interpretive Statement.

Tax Study Commissions are required to wrap up their work by mid-December, so School Boards should be deciding on ballot questions sometime after the first of the new year. It will remain to be see how District’s respond to the recommendations of their Tax Study Commissions and how the ballot questions will be formed, but we will keep an eye on it.

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