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Norwin school directors raise taxes 3.3 percent

Joe Napsha
| Monday, May 15, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

The Norwin School Board on Monday adopted a tentative budget of $69.8 million for 2017-18 that raises real estate taxes by 3.3 percent while avoiding teacher layoffs or program cuts.

Superintendent William Kerr warned that Norwin, like other school districts, will face a difficult challenge next year because of rising pension costs coupled with the state's failure to adequately fund public education.

“Collectively, we have a tall order. We are at risk” as are the state's other school districts, Kerr said. “The budget outlook is bleak for the next year.”

Norwin was able to balance the budget, in part, by raising taxes the state-allowed maximum of 3.3 percent, equal to 2.4 mills in North Huntingdon, Irwin and North Irwin. The tax rate will increase to 77.6 mills, the sixth consecutive year that the board has raised property taxes.

The revenue from 1.2 mills of the real estate tax is allocated to the Norwin Public Library.

The Allegheny County portion of the district, which consists of only 15 properties in White Oak and North Versailles, will not see any tax hike under a formula from the state tax equalization board, said Jude Abraham, interim director of business affairs.

The proposed budget wipes out a projected $3.3 million deficit for the 2017-18 school year. Refinancing $24.5 million in debt will result in about $1 million in savings to the district, while the tax increase will generate about $925,000. About $1 million will be saved through retirements and resignations realized when new employees are hired at lower salaries and benefits. Norwin anticipates saving $472,000 on transportation and supplies.

Kerr pointed out the importance of the savings gained by refinancing its bond issue. That savings, in essence, saves the district from furloughing 10 teachers, he said.

Three teachers took advantage of an early retirement incentive program that was reached with the Norwin Education Association, Kerr said. Two of the teachers opted for the district to pay two additional years of health coverage; one opted for a $15,000 cash settlement.

Two music teachers who retired will be replaced by long-term substitutes, rather than full-time employees, Kerr said. The district vowed not to hire any permanent teachers because of the budget, he said.

While acknowledging the district avoided teacher layoffs for the 2017-18 school year, “there are no guarantees for 2018-19,” Kerr said.

Most of the teachers who were close to retirement age have opted to retire, said Paula Giran, president of the teachers' union. Giran said Norwin now has a younger teaching staff.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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