Mt. Lebanon school directors give 'preliminary final' OK to 2013-14 budget
Mt. Lebanon school directors are moving ahead with an $83.25 million budget for the 2013-14 school year that includes a 0.54-mill tax increase, though officials said they are hoping to reduce that before the final vote in May.
Board members approved the “preliminary final” budget by a 6-3 vote on Monday, with Scott Goldman, Dale Ostergaard and Daniel Remely opposed. After whittling down an anticipated $1.8 million shortfall with the tax increase, new fees and cuts to spending on staffing, consultants and travel, the district nudged the tax increase down from 0.55 mills to 0.54 — a difference of $1 a year for every $100,000 of a property's assessed value.
Goldman said he thought the board spent a lot of time debating small cuts.
“When I brought up closing an elementary school — which I wouldn't support but is something I think we'll eventually see — I hadn't finished my sentence before being told we wouldn't entertain that idea,” he said. “There are hard discussions that need to be made, and I don't think we've made them.”
Others on the board disagreed, noting the large amount of pushback from parents and teachers that the proposed cuts brought.
“From the turnout we get just for the small cuts ... I think I can foresee the response we'd get from making one of those big cuts like closing a school,” said board President Elaine Cappucci.
The board will consider tweaking some items in the budget, such as charging students an activities fee for participating in after-school clubs or sports. It may also still draw money from cash reserves to lower the tax increase.
If approved as it is, the new tax rate would be 27.67 mills, or $2,767 for each $100,000 of a home's assessed value. That rate will have to be lowered for the court-ordered reassessments that take effect this year, because state law limits the windfall that taxing bodies can get from the increase in home values. Owners whose property values went up less than the average for Mt. Lebanon might actually experience a reduction in their tax bills.
The public will have 30 days to review the budget at the district's offices and offer comments before the final vote is taken.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.