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Freeport Area School District residents to pay higher property taxes

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Freeport Area School District residents will pay higher property taxes to help the district pay for its $30 million junior high building project.

The school board on Wednesday passed a $25.7 million 2013-14 budget that increases the district's tax rate by about 3 mills.

That amounts to about a $77 increase in the property tax bill on a typically assessed home.

Since the district crosses counties, the impact is slightly different in each. The tax increase amounts to 4.7 percent in Freeport and South Buffalo, Armstrong County and 3.1 percent in Buffalo Township, Butler County.

The district previously was considering a 4.5-mill tax increase, part of which would have been used to cover rising general operating expenses.

Board member Mark Shoaf said the finance committee worked to reduce spending to temper the tax increase.

“I'm very grateful to my colleagues, we did a lot of hard work,” he said. “There would be 3 mills put in place that tentatively is enough for the entire cost of the middle school project.”

Board member Frank Prazenica voted against the spending plan.

“I'm trying to keep taxes down, and I think we can work harder at that,” he said.

Middle school project

In other business, the district approved several items related to the middle school project.

The board committed to a $26 million general obligation note for the project. Based on the current interest rate of 1.25 percent, the 15-year financing plan will ultimately cost the district $29.3 million.

Business Manager William Reilly said it is unlikely, based on his assessment of market conditions, that the interest rate will increase significantly over the next five or six years.

The board approved a $71,900 contract with Geo-Mechanics Inc. of Elizabeth to conduct geotechnical engineering services for the project. That includes test borings for the building footers and driveway, Reilly said.

The board approved buying property at 701 S. Pike Road that sits in front of the senior high school. The district will pay $175,000 for the land and a house on the property.

Board President Dan Lucovich said the district plans to tear down the house to widen the school complex entrance as part of the middle school project.

The district already owns the other three properties between the entrance to the senior high and the Municipal Authority of Buffalo Township building.

“We're going to open it up, take the trees out, expand the kids' play area and put in a third lane,” Lucovich said.

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

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