The commuter tax — it’s an idea that’s been bandied about by York officials for several years now as a way to ease the strain a declining tax base is putting on the city’s general fund, and while it came up again during preliminary budget talks this month, it’s one that has yet to ever be formally enacted.
The tax has the potential to pump an estimated $500,000 into city coffers, but what’s keeping York from tacking on an extra charge to the nearly 40,000 workers who swell the city’s population on a daily basis and utilize city services, such as fire and police?
Several things, city officials have told the Daily Record/Sunday News in previous interviews and letters, including the burden it could place on York residents.
Here’s a look at several factors currently keeping the commuter tax out of York:
- The so-called commuter tax is actually a distressed pension relief tax, something York is eligible for but would have to seek permission from the state to enact, Councilman Henry Nixon wrote in a 2012 letter. The tax rate the city could levy would also be set by the state, Nixon wrote, which means York might see smaller profit margins than the $500,000 officials have estimated they could collect with a 1 percent tax.
- The revenue raised by the tax could only be used to pay off the city’s pension obligation and could not be diverted into the general fund, Michael O’Rourke, city business administrator, said in 2011.
- O’Rourke said the taxes would not only hit workers coming into York, but also Yorkers who work in the city — meaning that the extra cash flow would still come at a cost to city residents.