To groups of 10 or so people in the Springfield Township Library, Bill Mooney has been trying to lay out the facts about Act 1, the law behind the ballot question in this month's primary election, and who would benefit.
Act 1, passed last summer and designed to partially shift funding for schools, requires each school board to place a question on the May ballot. If voters choose yes, they will pay a higher income tax, either personal or earned, in exchange for a property-tax rebate on qualified homes.
"Most will vote their pocketbook. Some will vote, you know, what's in the greater good," said Mooney, 55, who was paid by the Springfield School District to run these information sessions, as well as ones to businesses and organizations.
A former president of the Springfield school board, Mooney has his own opinions about the greater good.
"But I try not to sway it," he said of the vote. "I don't try to hide the fact that there's uncertainty around this, though."
Although Act 1 is supposed to be revenue-neutral for the districts, school officials throughout the county share two concerns.
One is that, because taxpayers who commute to work in Philadelphia would pay the city's wage tax, the state is relying on gambling revenue to reimburse the districts.
And two, local officials worry that an income tax would yield a lower return than the property tax.
"Districts like ours can't afford to give up a nickel that they do have," said Bob Reardon of Aldan, director of the William Penn school board, who served on his district's tax study commission.
William Penn has one of the 10 highest tax burdens in the state, according to the Department of Education's 2005-06 adjusted equalized mills, which factor in the tax rate with the ability to pay.
All Delaware County school districts other than Penn-Delco rely solely on the property tax. Penn-Delco residents pay a 1 percent earned-income tax, with half going to the district and half to the municipalities. John Steffy, Penn-Delco's business manager, said the concern over collection was legitimate.
An income tax is "much more volatile," he said. "It has its swings with the economy, up and down."
Penn-Delco uses a company that keeps 2 percent of the approximately $2 million it collects for the district.
State Rep. William Adolph, who voted for Act 1 and represents Springfield and Morton, said that only time would tell about the gambling revenue, but that collection concerns "should not affect the thinking of the individual taxpayers."
More than 400 other districts already collect some type of income tax, Adolph said. And while districts are expecting a 60 percent to 70 percent compliance rate in the first year, he said, it should pass 90 percent by the second year.
Still, board directors such as Springfield's Donald L. Heller worry about compliance.
"People can move around, and they can choose to not report" income, he said. "But you can't move your house."
Adolph is not endorsing a position. "I'm just looking for the folks to come out and vote," he said. "There's no right answer. There's no wrong answer."
To help voters figure out their answer, the Springfield School District added an Act 1 personal income tax calculator to its Web site, www.ssdcougars.org. Neither an earned-income tax nor Springfield's proposed personal income tax would include Social Security or retirement pensions.
Rose Grelis, 64, a Springfield resident and recent retiree who attended one of the information sessions, said the question had a better chance of passing in two years, when it could be reintroduced. People would have a clearer idea about gambling revenue then, she said.