Mt. Lebanon board debates utilizing reserves
The Mt. Lebanon School Board is looking at raising taxes and tapping cash reserves to close an anticipated $2.6 million gap in the 2014-15 budget, officials said on Monday.
Board President Elaine Cappucci asked members at Monday's meeting how they wanted to balance tax increases and spending the district's reserves against reducing spending.
The consensus was that district staff would draw up a proposed budget with a tax increase of 0.55 mills to 0.6 mills. The budget draft would use $750,000 to $1 million of the district's fund balance, and would include a list of possible cuts.
The district's operating budget is estimated at $88.3 million.
“The fund balance is there and available, and it's very enticing,” said board member Larry Lebowitz, who supported using $750,000 of the money, left over from years when the district underspent or collected more than anticipated in taxes. “But we have to be mindful that money is necessary for the proverbial rainy day.”
Finance Director Jan Klein said that if the money isn't used to balance the budget, the fund balance could end up paying for a grievance filed by the teachers' union or it could fill a $600,000 gap in the budget if the state doesn't come through on reimbursements for the high school renovation project.
Klein said she was comfortable spending the $750,000 but worried going beyond that would deplete the reserves more quickly and become a recurring problem if other revenue is found.
The state's Act 1 limits how much districts can increase taxes each year. So if the district has a deficit one year and doesn't raise taxes, its limit the next year will be based on the prior year's tax rate, she said.
The Act 1 limit and its exemptions allow Mt. Lebanon to increase taxes by up to 0.8 mills, which would reduce the deficit to $500,000, but none of the board appeared to favor going that high.
The board has increased taxes six times since 2006, with an average increase of 0.55 mills, or $55 a year in taxes for every $100,000 of a property's assessed value.
The board cut the tax rate by 4.52 mills to 22.61 mills in the current school year, because of the countywide reassessment.
Klein and Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer will take the board's recommendations and work on a proposed budget that includes several options for cuts, tax increases and spending from reserves.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.