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Tax increase coming for some Leechburg Area residents

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

After three years of no school tax increases, residents in Leechburg and Gilpin will see a slight uptick for the 2013-14 school year.

The Leechburg Area School Board discussed budget options Wednesday night and, considering the tax equalization process, property owners in the Armstrong County sector of the district will experience an average increase of $12.21 next year, while property taxes in West Leechburg, Westmoreland County will not increase.

School districts that cross county lines typically have different averaged assessed values and, thus, different millage rates.

Under the Leechburg Area proposal, the Armstrong millage will increase from 64.49 mills to 64.91 mills — an increase of 0.65 percent.

The Westmoreland millage will remain at 106.56 mills.

School board members on Wednesday night reviewed three options:

• One was to keep property taxes at the current level and not add to the teaching staff.

• The second option was to hire an elementary teacher and raise taxes 2.4 percent, the maximum allowed by the state without requesting a voter referendum.

• A third option was to hire two teachers and raise taxes 2.4 percent. A 2.4 percent increase would bring $80,000 to the district, according to Business Manager Mark Lukacs.

The school board will vote May 15 on a preliminary budget, complete with a breakdown of how dollars will be allocated.

After allowing a month for public review, the district must adopt a final budget by June 30.

A shuffling of elementary positions might be done to avoid hiring another teacher.

Only one teacher is retiring from the district this year. A furloughed English teacher will first be asked back before the district considers others.

To avoid adding a teacher, board President Terry Knepshield favors reassigning a fifth-grade teacher to fourth grade, where the enrollment is larger.

“This will enable us to keep classroom sizes at recommended levels with no programs being cut,” Knepshield said. In kindergarten through second grade, 17 to 22 students are recommended. In third through 12th grades, 25 to 27 students are recommended.

Kindergarten will continue to consist of one full-day class and two half-day classes.

In a further effort to keep cut costs, only two textbooks will be replaced next year — Algebra I and Civics.

In other business

• Residents were reminded that May 10 is a make-up day for students due to the March 25 snow cancellation.

• The new board meeting starting time is 7:30 p.m. for at least the rest of the calendar year.

• The board held off hiring a new girls basketball coach and a proposal to spend $20,000 from next year's budget for Veterans Memorial Stadium improvements.

• Interested ninth-grade students have the option to attend a tour of Lenape Technical School on Tuesday.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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