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School District: Air Base Impact Aid Set

Hatboro-Horsham School District officials said its annual disbursement from the federal government in lieu of taxes on Willow Grove air base is ‘guaranteed’ for a few years.

Calling it a “significant victory,” Hatboro-Horsham School District officials shared that for the next few years, administrators will not have to fret about how much – if any – federal aid will be received for Willow Grove air base.

Robert Reichert, the district’s director of business affairs, said the district has been working for the last few years to “streamline the funding formula” in order to help stabilize payments. During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Reichert said the district did just that. 

For this year, Hatboro-Horsham will receive $1.2 million, he said. For 2014 and 2015, the district is “guaranteed” $635,000 or $640,000 minimum. 

“We were able to get the past years payments that were due us,” Reichert said of the higher funding amount for 2013.

The subsequent payments are based on what the district received in federal dollars, on average, the past four years, he said. An additional 10 percent is possible the next two years, but is not certain.

If the largely talked about 8 percent to 10 percent across-the-board federal cuts – also known as sequestration – become reality, Reichert said the reduction would likely wipe out most, if not all, of the potential additional impact aid for 2014 and 2015. 

Looking ahead, Reichert said the district is concerned about the “gap years” when 862 acres are transferred from the federal government, but not yet developed and thus not netting tax revenues.

Federal impact aid is only paid when properties are federally owned. At a minimum, officials have said the former military base would take 20 years to build out.

“The , will certainly meet and exceed these levels,” Reichert said. “There will be some significant tax revenues.”

The big question, Reichert said, is “when will that be?” 

“How long is it going to take … to where it’s actually generating tax revenue,” Reichert asked. “We’ll have to see how it all plays out.”

David Pitcairn January 25, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Yes Mike, services would be required by any developemnt but an airport requires very little in the way of services compared to the current HLRA plan. I agree with you that services for the HLRA development plan would likely be covered by the taxes since the HLRA has said their goal is to break even on taxes for that property. In other words, the land pays for itself. But that equates to a tax loss compared to the current situation where most of the impact aid is not returned as services to the Navy. No utilities, roads, students etc. I still stand by what I said until you can make a better argument.
David Pitcairn January 25, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Agreed also Mike that, the current HLRA plan will generate a lot of revenue but, given my point above, how does that benefit taxpayers? Maybe marginally by spreading the cost of top officials over a bigger tax base. It does also mean more police, fire and teachers would be needed so that would help employ the new township residents at least. As far as your airport comments, you obviously have not read the airport feasibility study, otherwise you would know that the HLRA talking points you are parroting here are false and misleading. The BCAA proposal offered $15,000 the first year while the airport was being prepared for operation, with minimal services required in return. The numbers were only projected out 3 years but by then, that number swells to $106,000. It would grow over time, not happen on day one. Not a huge amount to start off but it does not include the tax revenue generated from employment taxes and by taxes on companies that would be attracted by the airport. In addition, that number is compared to what? When the current plan is put into operation, how many years will it be before there is tax revenue from the land after the impact aid stops?
David Pitcairn January 25, 2013 at 11:44 PM
One more thing I should have mentioned. The airport would have only used a portion of the base, leaving the rest of the land for other uses such as business uses. Combining businesses with homes does make sense compared to just homes because, according to the DVRPC, businesses pay more in taxes than they receive in services while homes pay less. In the case of an airport where there would not likely be homes other than homeless housing, the remaining off airport land could be business use so that tax revenue would exceed services and be a net gain, further offsetting the loss of impact aid.
Mike Shortall Sr January 26, 2013 at 02:19 AM
I think most Horsham residents would readily accept a tax-neutral outcome from any redevelopment. And when you factor in the possibility of an airport, those same people would rather pay moderately more taxes than see an airport operating here. Yeah ... Horsham could be heading into some tough years budget-wise. Comes with the responsibility ... Still think it's worth it.
Mike Shortall Sr January 26, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Thanks, but no thanks ... No airport exists without growing and growing. Eventually that airport would become so busy, it would push everything else out. And an airport would severely limit what development could take place there.

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