Spring Cove urged to leave realty transfer tax unchanged

District allowed to claim half percent

Updated 1 p.m. Tuesday to correct attribution on statements from two board members.

ROARING SPRING — Multiple representatives from municipalities within the Spring Cove School District voiced their concerns at Monday’s meeting for a proposed resolution that would allow the district to claim half of the realty transfer tax.

While this tax is often split between school districts and municipalities, the entire 1 percent realty transfer tax has gone to the six municipalities of Martinsburg, Roaring Spring, North Woodbury Township, Freedom Township, Huston Township and Taylor Township in the past.

The Spring Cove School District was under the misconception that it was not legally allowed to collect the tax, according to Kathy Hazenstab, the district’s business manager.

Hazenstab said after learning the district could claim 0.5 percent of the tax, she had the “ethical and fiscal responsibility” to inform the board.

Connie Lamborn, Martins­burg Borough Council president, asked the school district to leave all the money collected from the realty transfer tax to the municipalities, stating the school district benefits from services the municipalities provide.

“You wrote in your public notice of this resolution, and I quote, ‘The tax will be in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of district residents,'” Lamborn said. “And we say it is already being spent on the health, safety and welfare of district residents.

“The result of leaving that money with the municipalities will fulfill your goal. All of the residents of the Spring Cove School District benefit from it now,” she said.

Lamborn said that the half percent is a fraction of the district’s budget but a larger portion of the municipalities’ budgets.

Richard Brantner Jr., Martinsburg Borough manager, asked about the positive impact the half percent could have on the school district versus the negative impact on the municipalities. He said the municipalities might have to cut services such as police protection or plowing services, or raise taxes.

“It’s really going to hurt us,” Brantner said. “And it’s going to hurt you. Because if we have to raise taxes, you all live within the municipalities that are represented here.”

North Woodbury Town­ship supervisor Mark Ayers said if the district claims its half, the township would lose about a tenth of its budget.

Meanwhile, Taylor Township board chairman William Replogle called the resolution an “insult to municipalities.”

He said the school district has been mismanaging its budget and implied the district was spending beyond its means.

In response to Replogle’s comments, numerous school board members jumped in with counter arguments while acknowledging the difficulty of the situation.

“This is a tough situation,” board President Brian Gahagan said. “The reason it was brought forward is because we have a significant deficit.”

“I want to stress this isn’t some new tax we just came up with,” Gahagan said. “This is something that’s been out there for years and years. I believe we just felt we couldn’t do it, but now it’s come to light that we can, so this is something we have to explore.”

Jim Butler, another board member, said the district has to look at other streams of revenue to handle the increasing costs and to avoid making the deficit worse, adding the district lost money from property reassessment.

Board member Troy Wright commented on how the district has both state and federal mandates to follow and that it is “not lavishly spending by any means.” He described the comment about the school district spending irresponsibly as “ridiculous.”

Wright said the district has cut everything it possibly can, commenting on how the district couldn’t afford to take all the asbestos out at once and had to remove it in sections.

Board member Linda Smith said she understood the struggles of property owners and the municipalities’ concerns of raising taxes if the school district claimed the half percent.

“It’s complicated sometimes to run this district along with Dr. (Betsy) Baker,” Smith said. “We know we have a great community and we all work together. It’s very evident. So we need to get through this and we need to vote the best way possible. But I agree with Mr. Wright to not make foolish decisions and spend money unwisely.”

School board members plan to vote on the realty transfer tax at their meeting set for 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the district office building at 1100 E. Main St., Roaring Spring.

If the school district had claimed its half of the tax from 2013-16, it would have received $103,000 to $175,000 each year, according to Hazenstab.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.