The Elizabethtown Area School District has the second-highest high school standardized test scores in Lancaster County – and manages to do that despite also having the second-highest number of tax-exempt properties in the county.
Those were among the statistics shared by Superintendent Michele Balliet as she described some of the challenges the school district faces in her keynote address to the Elizabethtown Rotary Club on Friday, March 2.
Balliet said only Lancaster City has more tax-exempt properties than the Elizabethtown Area School District. Balliet did not name the tax-exempt properties in her address, but Masonic Village at Elizabethtown and Elizabethtown College are both tax-exempt nonprofits and both own large amounts of real estate in the school district.
And that is part of the reason why Elizabethtown schools get the fifth-lowest amount of money per mill of its tax rate. The school district’s rate for 2017-18 was 20.845 mills, so a homeowner is billed $2,084.50 in property tax for every $100,000 of assessed value. But having so much property that is tax-exempt means Elizabethtown raises less money for each mill than its neighbors.
That makes it difficult to compare Elizabethtown to other school districts, Balliet said.
“They may be already generating more dollars than we are,” Balliet said.
Balliet also noted that Elizabethown’s tax rate is only slightly above the county average.
“We do not take raising taxes as a guarantee and we do not take that decision lightly,” Balliet said.
Balliet also described the school district’s security preparations. When Rick Farnsler retired as the school resource officer assigned to the high school-middle school building, Balliet said the school district rethought its approach to security. The new school resource officer, Richard Regel, goes to all the district’s schools.
“We do not publicize his calendar for obvious reasons, but he is in every building every week,” Balliet said.