How can we best keep taxes as low as possible while maintaining excellent schools in our district? A key part of any balanced, responsible answer to this question is the need for better regional planning and smart growth policies in our boroughs and townships. Uncontrolled growth creates more costs to taxpayers than the additional tax revenue it generates. The school district is hit particularly hard, as they must expand programs, hire new teachers, and in some cases build new schools to accommodate the families that move in to unchecked housing developments.
Ron Beitler recently made this point in a blog post discussing how preserving green space helps keep local property taxes low. Economic impact studies consistently show that building new housing subdivisions cost local taxpayers between $1.04 and $1.67 for every new $1 in revenue they generate (depending on the type of housing, its location, etc.). The private developers who build wherever and whenever they can do not bear these costs, taxpayers do...forever.
Fiscal responsibility means paying attention to facts about what policies lead to higher taxes. Reigning in uncontrolled tract home development is one of the many things our community can do to stop rising school costs.
(For more information about the economic benefits of smart growth, see the recent "Building Better Budgets" report that summarizes the findings of 17 different studies nationwide.)