Smith Middle School 2015

Smith Middle School students return to classes on the first day in the Solanco school district. RICHARD HERTZLER | Staff Photographer

Lancaster County school districts will have the option raise taxes by 2.4 to 3.6 percent next year.

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 sets an annual cap on districts' property tax increases. That limit is called the Act 1 index.

In 2016-17 it will be 2.4 percent, but schools with high poverty or stagnant property values can raise taxes a bit more than that. In Lancaster County, 11 of 17 districts have a higher limit.

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Columbia Borough School District has the most flexibility in raising taxes: up to 3.6 percent. Five other districts can raise taxes by 3 percent or more: Elizabethtown, Octorara, Penn Manor, Donegal and Lancaster.

Districts also can apply for exceptions to go above their index if they have construction debt or excessive special education and pension costs. At least nine Lancaster County districts will apply for those exceptions this year. Districts that receive exceptions do not always raise taxes above the index.

The Act 1 index is calculated from the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage and the employment cost index.

The new Act 1 rates are higher than for 2015-16, when the highest index here was 2.8 percent before exceptions.

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