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Mt. Lebanon school board mulls tax hike

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Musical on schedule

Plans for the Mt. Lebanon High School spring musical are moving ahead without delay, despite the arrest of the teacher who has overseen the annual production for the past several years.

Jason Greenawalt, 33, of Brookline, was charged last week with sending sexually explicit messages via cell phone and online to a male student starting when the student was a sophomore. Greenawalt, who directs the high school choir and its musicals, was suspended March 4 — the day of the first cast meeting and rehearsal for “Suessical” — pending the outcome of the investigation.

District spokeswoman Cissy Bowman said preparations and rehearsals for the musical, scheduled to be presented May 8-11, are continuing on schedule though no one has officially been appointed to fill Greenawalt's position. She said that due to the sensitivity of the situation, practices are closed to the public.

Greenawalt, who has been charged by Mt. Lebanon police with corruption of minors, criminal use of communications and unlawful contact with a minor, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 21.

— Matthew Santoni

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Mt. Lebanon school board is weighing a tax increase of somewhere between .25 mills and .55 mills for the upcoming school year, driven mostly by increasing pension costs.

As the district works on its 2013-14 budget, administrators came to the school board Tuesday asking for general guidance as to how much of a tax increase they could work with.

Finance Director Jan Klein said the district has averaged a .55-mill increase over the past eight years. In 2011, taxes increased by 2.52 mills to cover the district's first round of borrowing for the high school renovation project. In 2008 and 2012, tax hikes were not required.

She presented these scenarios:

• Without a tax hike, the district would have a $1.8 million shortfall between revenues and expenses.

• If it raised taxes to the state-set limit of .46 mills and didn't claim any exceptions, the district would have a $960,000 shortfall.

• If the district raised taxes by the eight-year average of .55 mills, the shortfall would be about $870,000.

• A .89-mill tax increase would be enough to eliminate any anticipated budget deficits without cuts, but would require claiming all the available exemptions to the state's Act 1 limit.

Projected shortfalls are driven mostly by a state requirement that the district increase its pension fund contributions from 12.36 percent to 16.93 percent of payroll. A 5 percent increase in health-care costs, contractually mandated raises for teachers, and a potential grievance from the teacher's union also contribute, Klein said.

Klein and Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said they have started considering potential cuts under the .55-mill tax increase scenario, including further reductions to custodial and IT staff; fewer travel expenses for administrators, teachers and board consultants; and leaving more staff positions unfilled as employees retire. Officials want to avoid making cutbacks that will affect learning, Steinhauer said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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