Township Residents Express Hatred For EIT Concept
Township Residents Express Hatred For EIT Concept
By: Kenneth Books
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, March 10, 2016
DINGMANS FERRY-If the Delaware Township Supervisors decide to implement an Earned Income Tax (EIT), they may be looking at a revolution, if the resounding opposition to the tax is any indication.
Some 200 residents crowded into a standing-room-only informational meeting about the tax Wednesday, March 2, speaking out against it, threatening the supervisors and generally showing their disdain for any such levy.
The meeting was ostensibly an informational session, featuring representatives from Berkheimer, which would administer the tax for an annual fee of about $15,000. But many in the crowd were convinced that the session was window-dressing for a plan to implement the tax and many said that would result in the supervisors being voted out of office at the first possible election.
“This tax will do nothing but shift the tax burden from those not working to those struggling to support their families,” one resident charged, a sentiment that was shared by many of those who spoke out against the EIT.
Greg Helstrom noted that many residents live in private communities that are responsible for their own roads, and there is no need for a new tax, a comment that drew widespread applause.
But Supervisor Chairman Jeff Scheetz said an EIT would be designed to reduce property taxes, to which the crowd responded with catcalls. Scheetz said the informational session was not a sign that the tax is imminent or has already been decided upon. He repeated that statement several times during the heated meeting, but many residents obviously were not buying it.
“We have no hidden agenda,” Scheetz said. “This may be the last you ever hear about an EIT in Delaware Township.” The crowd applauded loudly and one resident called out, “It better be.”
An EIT, according to Berkheimer Field Representative Pearl Salvo, is the same as a wage tax, levied on all who earn more than $12,000 per year.
Berkheimer Director of Governmental Relations James Hunt said it is used in 90 of the 2,562 municipalities in Pennsylvania. It can be assessed on non-residents working within the commonwealth and would be levied not only on wages, but also on stock options.
Pensions, Social Security, welfare and active military pay would be exempt, he said.
The tax is based on residence, with the money remaining in the community in which the taxpayer is employed, Hunt said. He said 637 Delaware Township residents already pay an EIT where they work, yielding about $85,000 in municipal revenue.
“How often can the township raise and EIT?” asked Karen Hagen. Hunt said the maximum tax has been 1 percent since 1965 and can be raised only through a referendum. He added that non-payment would result in a penalty of 1 percent per month on the out-standing balance. While Scheetz said any EIT would be used to reduce property taxes, Hunt said there is no limit on what the tax could be used for. “Basically, it’s a free hand,” he said.
Throughout the meeting, residents shouted their opposition to the EIT, visibly fraying Scheetz’s nerves. He threatened to end the meeting “much earlier than you want,” if people continued to call out.
While Scheetz continually stressed that the tax was not a done deal, Ronne Tener would have none of it. “This is raising taxes,” she said.
Scheetz attempted to silence Tener’s comments, but was met with cries of “let her speak.”
Dave Schuller struck a note that was repeated frequently, noting that seasonal residents, the unemployed and Section 8 residents would not pay the tax, “so you’re hurting the working people of Delaware Township. This is unacceptable.”
David Jones said and EIT would “deter people from moving here. It would not only hurt business, but it would drive wealthier people out and replace them with people who don’t work. We’re going in the wrong direction.”
The residents didn’t believe an EIT would reduce taxes, partly because Scheetz couldn’t say precisely what the tax would be used for, a stance that drew criticism from Claire Bennett, among others.
Steve McBride said an EIT would simply be an additional tax, not a replacement for property taxes."If we had an EIT and property tax, there would be two taxes that could be raised on us,” he said.
Barbara Bonney questioned why an EIT was even being discussed, considering that the township has a surplus. Scheetz said much of the surplus is already earmarked for township requirements.
“All we hear is taxes, taxes, taxes,” said one resident. “I think you should turn this down for everybody. We don’t want another tax.”
And Steve Callandrino pointed out that most township roads are state roads, “I don’t see where the township provides anything for us,” he said. He also said Berkheimer was not the proper organization to present the EIT to the residents, since it will profit if the tax is enacted.
No mention was made whether the tax would be discussed further at future township meetings.