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Chester County Press

Vote 'yes' to referendum on open space program

10/20/2015 11:53AM ● By Steven Hoffman

This newspaper has frequently written about the need for more commercial and industrial development in the Oxford Area School District to alleviate some of the burden on taxpayers in the community.

When school and municipal taxes are factored in, residents in Oxford Borough, Lower Oxford Township, Upper Oxford Township, Elk Township, East Nottingham Township, and West Nottingham Township have some of the largest tax burdens in the county. At the same time, the Oxford Area School District spends millions of dollars less than its neighboring school districts, primarily because Oxford simply doesn't have the commercial and industrial tax base it needs.

On Nov. 3, East Nottingham Township residents will decide the fate of a referendum that asks voters if they want to continue the imposition of the earned-income tax in the amount of one-half of one percent by East Nottingham Township to be used for financing the acquisition of open space, acquiring agricultural conservations easements, or acquiring recreation or historic lands.

The unequivocal answer to that question should be “yes.”

It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that residents vote in support of a tax when they are already heavily burdened, but it's not.

Utilizing the money raised by the tax to protect farmland is a way not only to preserve agriculture and maintain the rural character of the community, it is also a way to ensure that residential growth doesn't spiral out of control.

Those who are championing the continuation of the township's open space program point out that there are already more than 500 homes that are proposed to be built in East Nottingham—and that's with the open space program in place. What would be the result without the program?

That's a good question. The answer might be very bad for taxpayers in the entire Oxford Area School District.

While commercial and industrial growth would be beneficial for the Oxford area, residential growth—especially the kind that adds, on average, 2.3 children to the school system, would make a difficult situation even worse.

Let's say that a new homeowner in East Nottingham has a school-tax bill of $4,500. And the family in that home has two children enrolled in Oxford schools. It might cost $24,500 to educate those two children. That's probably a little low, but let's say for this particular home there is a $20,000 difference between how much it costs to educate the children and how much that home sends to the school district in property taxes. The rest of the taxpayers in the school district pay the taxes that are necessary to make up that difference. That's not a lot of money...until you multiply that $20,000 by twelve because that's how long the children will attend school. Then multiply the one home by hundreds of other homes...and suddenly you're looking at the potential for millions of dollars in extra costs each year.

East Nottingham Township residents approved the creation of the open space program more than a decade ago because they believed that it would be beneficial. It was a good idea then, and it's a good idea now. Residents should vote “yes” to the referendum question.

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