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Freeport Area school board approves tax increase

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Freeport Area School Board passed a tentative 2013-14 budget that includes a property tax increase to pay for rising general operating expenses and the $30 million junior high building project.

The $25.7 million spending plan is a 3 percent increase, or $825,000, over the current budget.

Half of the overall 4.5 millage increase would go toward paying for the junior high project.

Because of the state's tax equalization formula, the millage rate increases differ for Armstrong and Butler county homeowners.

The 3.4-mill increase in Armstrong County represents a 6.45 percent tax hike, or an additional $102 a year. Butler County homeowners would see property tax rates increase by about 5 percent, a 5.9-mill increase, which represents an additional $118 in their tax bill.

The millage increases are slightly lower than the district's preliminary budget passed in February.

Each year the state limits, based on inflation, the percentage by which school districts may increase taxes. Freeport's limit was 2.3 percent, but the state recently granted the district's request to increase taxes beyond that due to rising pension obligations and special-education costs.

As a result, the district is permitted to raise taxes beyond the inflation index and collect an additional 2.3 percent in real estate revenue.

Board members Frank Prazenica and Mark Shoaf voted against the tentative budget.

“I would not approve this as a (final) budget,” Shoaf said. “I think we need to separate out key parts to examine basic operating expenses without the building project.”

School board President Dan Lucovich said the board's budget work is not finished.

“We should look and see what else we can take out,” he said. “This is a tentative budget, just to get us going.”

The district must pass a budget by June 30.

In other business

After nearly four decades with the same business manager, the school board on Wednesday hired someone new for the job.

The board unanimously hired Ryan Manzer, who will start on July 1. His annual salary will be $85,000.

Manzer, 30, of Shaler, is business manager for the Pine-Richland School District.

“I'm excited about coming here,” Manzer said after the vote. “It's been an exciting time for me and my family.”

He said he anticipates he and his wife and their three children will move closer to the Freeport area.

William Reilly, the district's current business manager, had little to say about the board's move or his future.

“I have no plans,” he said.

Lucovich said Wednesday that Reilly had indicated a desire for change.

“When he did his last contract with the previous school board, he said this was going to be his last contract, so we were just honoring his request,” he said.

In December, the board voted not to automatically renew Reilly's employment agreement with the district when it ends June 30.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 orjweigand@tribweb.com.

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