Report examines impact of Wilkinsburg annexation on Pittsburgh public schools

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Proponents of the proposed Wilkinsburg annexation by Pittsburgh have shared data regarding a potential merger of Wilkinsburg schools with Pittsburgh Public Schools, ahead of a final vote on the measure expected within the next two weeks.

Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp., the group that led the effort to annex Wilkinsburg to Pittsburgh, hired Public Financial Management to assess the tax impact of merging school districts. The report appears to show that the merger would be financially beneficial to Pittsburgh public schools.

Wilkinsburg middle and high school students have been attending Pittsburgh Public Schools since 2016. The Wilkinsburg School District pays tuition for Pittsburgh schools under the agreement, which was renewed in 2021.

The report released Thursday sought to assess the tax implications of fully merging the districts, which would occur following an annexation.

“Given the open nature of the process, we made assumptions about a variety of factors related to a potential merger so that we could provide meaningful estimates of its financial impact,” the report said.

The report used data available from the most recent district budgets and the state Department of Education.

The merger would bring about a $1 million increase in annual revenue, according to the study.

The report calculated the financial ramifications of school district membership assuming that Wilkinsburg’s real estate and earned income taxes would rise to Pittsburgh’s tax rates.

This would result in most Wilkinsburg homeowners paying less school taxes overall, since the city’s property tax is lower than Wilkinsburg’s, although its earned income tax is higher. Tenants may pay more in amalgamation due to higher tax rates on earned income.

That data — and additional information — will be presented to the Pittsburgh City Council at a post-agenda meeting hosted by Councilman Anthony Coghill on Wednesday.

He said public policy experts — including Dean Kaplan and Gordan Mann, the municipal finance experts who helped the city exit the state’s Law 47 program for municipalities in financial difficulty — will present a tax analysis. of consolidation, a financial analysis of a school district merger and a government comparison.

“City Council has a responsibility to gather all the facts and cast an informed vote based on what will be best for the residents of our city,” Coghill said. “I look forward to welcoming these experts to the council table for a civil and informative discussion.”

It comes as the city council decided on Wednesday to delay its final vote on annexation of Wilkinsburg for a week.

Council President Theresa Kail-Smith introduced a bill last week that would reverse the measure. Kail-Smith and other council members said they wanted more information before they could support annexation. When a judge ordered the city council to make a decision, Kail-Smith said they should refuse the proposal now and investigate further on their own terms.

Kail-Smith said she wanted to see data from responsible officials in front of the public.

“I just think there are a lot of responsible people who need those numbers,” Kail-Smith said when she introduced the measure to reject the annexation proposal. “If they don’t have those numbers, it makes me very suspicious of the whole process. I want authentic numbers from people who will be held accountable to the public. »

Legislation introduced Tuesday would pave the way for the city council to launch a more thorough investigation into potential mergers or annexations of neighboring municipalities, including Wilkinsburg.

Julia Felton is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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