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Rate rising, although taxes may not follow in Highlands

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 1:16 a.m.

The Highlands School District tax rate is dropping for next school year, but whether actual taxes paid will follow suit is another matter.

The school board on Thursday night reduced the tax rate for the 2013-14 school year by 2.61 mills due to Allegheny County property reassessment. The new rate will be 23.8 mills.

It will help finance a $39.4 million school district budget that the board also approved unanimously Thursday.

District Business Manager Jon Rupert said the district's average residential real estate assessment was $57,000 and the new one is now around $63,000. He said that remains in flux as assessment figures continue to change.

In regard to the actual tax bill, Rupert said, “The average house, based on the (current) numbers alone, is going to be within $15 of last year.”

He said last year, somebody owning a house with an average assessment paid $1,270 in taxes after figuring in the $230 homestead exemption for longtime homeowners.

This school year, the tax bill on that house will be $1,282, Rupert said.

But, overall, he said the increases and decreases in tax bills will vary — some by large margins.

“Some people will drop $1,000 in taxes; others might go up $200,” he said. “It all depends on whether you filed an appeal and won an appeal.”

He said the new tax rate includes a 1.9 percent increase, which is under the 2.5 percent maximum the district could have gone with under state law.

Rupert said it was done primarily to cover any further tax revenue reduction due to successful assessment appeals.

According to Rupert, the district has already seen its districtwide assessment decline by $20 million this year because of appeals. Officials have to figure on a further decline because of the fire that damaged the Heights Plaza Shopping Center.

The new budget is about $2.2 million more than the 2012-13 spending plan, which is equivalent to about a 5.7 percent increase over last school year's $37.2 million budget.

Rupert said the district will use about $1.4 million from its $7 million budget surplus to help cover the 2013-14 budget.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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