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Westmoreland

Greater Latrobe proposes half-mill property tax hike

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 11:45 p.m.
Greater Latrobe School Board meets in the Center for Student Creativity, seen at right in this May 15, 2018 view of the Greater Latrobe Senior High School in Unity.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Greater Latrobe School Board meets in the Center for Student Creativity, seen at right in this May 15, 2018 view of the Greater Latrobe Senior High School in Unity.

Property owners in Latrobe, Youngstown and Unity may have to dig a little deeper into their pockets next year after the Greater Latrobe School Board approved a tentative $56 million budget for 2018-19 that would be balanced with a half-mill property tax increase.

According to district business administrator Dan Watson, the proposed hike to 81.25 mills would add $13 to the tax bill of the owner of an average district property with an assessed value of $26,380.

The tax hike would cover an expected budget shortfall of $170,000.

The tentative spending plan includes a $630,522 jump in expenditures, with special education costs accounting for the largest single increase — up by $463,803, or 21.5 percent.

Board member Mike O'Barto on Tuesday cast the sole vote against the proposed budget, citing opposition to the tax increase.

O'Barto, who has suggested the district offer a tax break for senior citizens, said many older residents can't afford their tax bills.

“I am always going to look out for the taxpayer,” he said.

Other board members said they also care about taxpayers but believe the half-mill increase is warranted.

“A half a mill tax increase for what we're dealing with at this time is not unreasonable,” said school director Susan Mains. She said it's better to impose gradual, small tax increases over time than to hit taxpayers with a large hike of several mills in a given year.

Board member Heidi Kozar said the district runs a tight ship. She noted administrator Mark Mears oversees student transportation while also serving as athletic director.

Tammy Bailey, a Latrobe parent of a special needs student, said small tax increases are easier for her family to work into its budget. She said her family has tightened its belt since her husband lost a good-paying job, and she asked the district to look for ways it can do the same.

“Look at the petty stuff we really don't need,” she said. She urged the district to reuse all the items it can when it moves from the existing Latrobe Elementary School to the new version under construction several blocks away.

The budget will be available for public review before final adoption, which is expected at the board's June 19 meeting.

School meals will cost more

The school board approved a 5-cent increase in prices for 2018-19 school meals, in compliance with Equity in School Lunch Pricing regulations.

Daily fees will increase to $2.40 for an elementary lunch, to $2.65 for a junior high or senior high lunch, and to $1.35 for breakfast at any grade level.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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