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Burrell School Board plans tax increase

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

Burrell School Board's preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year would hike real estate taxes by about 2 percent.

The board this month passed a tentative $27.1 million spending plan, which is an increase of just over $1 million, or almost 4 percent, from the current school year's budget, according to Business Manager Jennifer Callahan.

She said rising retirement costs contributed to about half of the increase; contractual employee raises also were a factor.

Under the proposal, taxes would go from 85.4 mills this school year to 87.2 mills.

The board is expected to finalize the 2013-14 budget June 18.

The preliminary budget was approved last week in a 6-0 vote. Directors Scott Fisher, Deb Kinosz and Tami Kelly were absent.

Although he approved the preliminary budget, board President Tom Klebine at Tuesday's meeting indicated he'd have a hard time approving a final budget that includes a tax increase.

“It tears me up. Every year we raise taxes a little more,” he said. “I don't see how we can sustain this.”

Klebine noted the board is considering policies that may ask community groups to cover more of the costs when they use district facilities and might require student groups to assume some of the cost of traveling to state and national competitions.

“I can't raise taxes and give everyone a pay raise,” he said.

He and Linda Woiewodski, the two no votes a year ago on the 2012-13 budget that increased taxes, both referenced their disapproval of the early-bird teacher contract that was approved in 2010 and extends until 2016.

The contract offered average annual raises of about 4 percent; however, all district employees agreed to a wage freeze during the 2011-12 school year.

Fisher said he is concerned about whether state legislators will continue to fiddle with the amount of money contributed to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS), which funds teacher pensions.

Fisher encouraged residents to ask their legislators to ensure the retirement system remains fully funded. “You can't keep kicking this can down the road,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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