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Apollo-Ridge school officials weigh effect of potential tax increase

| Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 7:28 a.m.

The biggest tax increase possible for next school year would mean an increase of a little more than 1 percent for Armstrong County property owners in the Apollo-Ridge School District.

District officials have not decided if there will be any tax increase for the 2013-14 school year.

The board will vote on a preliminary budget in May and finalize the budget in June.

At a school board committee meeting Monday, Business Manager Jennie Ivory reviewed budgets with no tax increase and the highest allowed by the state.

The district is allowed to increase taxes by up to 2.5 percent.

The difference affects how much property owners will pay and how much the district uses from its reserves to balance its budget.

Either way, property owners in Indiana County can expect their tax rate to go up because of the formula used to equalize the district's taxes between Armstrong and Indiana counties.

According to Ivory's presentation, the district would spend about $21.6 million in the 2013-14 school year, a 2.2 percent increase.

Spending increases include unspecified salary increases, an 11 percent increase in health insurance to about $2.5 million, and a roughly $356,000 increase in retirement costs to about $1.5 million.

Four veteran teachers are retiring, but it's not known how much that will save the district. Superintendent Matt Curci said it's not yet known if they will be replaced.

The district saved $156,000 by cutting spending for general supplies by $91,000 and cutting $65,000 in capital improvement plans.

The district will save money by eliminating late activity bus runs.

The district is planning nearly $70,000 in capital improvement projects for the coming school year, including security cameras at all schools.

The district's reserves are expected to be about $5.5 million at the end of June — down about 20 percent from $6.9 million a year ago.

With or without a tax increase, the district would spend more than $1 million from its reserves to balance next school year's budget.

Curci said there is concern that the district's reserves could be gone in the “not too distant future.”

With no tax increase, the district would spend about $1.4 million from its reserves.

The property tax rate in Armstrong County would remain unchanged at 60.8 mills; in Indiana County, it would increase by nearly 4 percent, from 161.4 mills to 167.3 mills.

A maximum tax increase would raise about $90,000 more for the district, Ivory said. With a maximum tax increase, the district would spend about $1.3 million from its reserves.

With a maximum tax increase, Armstrong County property owners would have the property tax rate increase by about 1.3 percent — from 60.8 mills to 61.6 mills.

In Indiana County, the rate would increase by about 5 percent, to 169.6 mills.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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