How is Property Tax Relief Doled Out?

Published November 19, 2015

Among the many questions in a tentative state budget deal is how revenue from the sales tax increase would be distributed. The Associated Press notes this will be a major source of contention should the plan pass.

Under a formula initially proposed by Wolf, Philadelphia would get 14 percent of the money; under the House GOP plan, it got 5 percent. Under Wolf’s plan, wealthy Lower Merion would get less than 1 percent; the House GOP plan would give it almost three times as much.

Last Thursday, Gov. Wolf said he wants to see “a progressive formula to distribute the resulting property tax reductions.”

While we don’t yet know what the new formula might look like, we can look at how the $616 million in slot machine revenue is currently distributed.

Overall, slot machine revenue for property tax relief yields $222 per homeowner. This varies widely by school district—from $46 per homeowner in Bryn Athyn school district to $653 per homeowner in Chester-Upland.

Most districts (376 or 75 percent), however, receive less than the average $222 per homeowner.  

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s revenue—$86 million or 15 percent of the total—is dedicated to reducing the city wage tax rather than property taxes.

This redistribution—along with school tax increases—shows why most homeowners are disappointed. They’ve never seen the promised tax relief from gambling.

The table below shows the top 10 and bottom 10 current recipients, per homeowner.

Here is a sortable, searchable link to find your school district.

Property Tax Relief By District
Top 10
School District County 2015-16
State Property Tax Reduction Allocation
Number of
 Approved Homesteads
 and Farmsteads
Estimated Tax Relief per Homestead and Farmstead
Chester-Upland SD Delaware $2,753,110.03 4,216 $653
Allentown City SD Lehigh $9,639,281.38 16,948 $569
York City SD York $2,901,801.73 5,473 $530
Pleasant Valley SD Monroe $4,069,921.61 8,604 $473
Jenkintown SD Montgomery $527,534.67 1,129 $467
William Penn SD Delaware $3,404,197.02 7,380 $461
Cheltenham Township SD Montgomery $3,609,813.90 8,062 $448
Washington SD Washington $1,120,064.89 2,502 $448
Harrisburg City SD Dauphin $2,774,667.62 6,331 $438
Lancaster SD Lancaster $4,983,878.50 11,514 $433
Bottom 10
Mid Valley SD Lackawanna $261,188.73 4,010 $65
Eastern Lancaster County SD Lancaster $446,237.91 6,857 $65
Crestwood SD Luzerne $421,736.57 6,540 $64
Richland SD Cambria $230,104.49 3,689 $62
Saint Marys Area SD Elk $348,202.23 5,596 $62
Mars Area SD Butler $327,476.67 5,717 $57
Cumberland Valley SD Cumberland $916,543.69 16,489 $56
Palmyra Area SD Lebanon $342,742.08 6,572 $52
Dallas SD Luzerne $315,409.90 6,086 $52
Bryn Athyn SD Montgomery $9,283.10 202 $46

Promising property tax relief is one thing, but delivering real relief requires a fair formula and strict spending controls.  

Nathan Benefield ([email protected]) is Vice President of Policy Analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. Reprinted with permission. An earlier version of this article appeared at