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Carlynton board talks budget

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:32 p.m.

While most municipalities are putting millage rates in their rearview mirror, Carlynton School District is preparing to enter the “throes of the budget process,” in business manager Kirby Christy's words.

Christy briefed the Carlynton Board of Education on the state of the district's budget at the Jan. 10 meeting.

The board plans to vote at its meeting Thursday to draft a resolution promising not to raise taxes beyond the district's index rate of 2.1 percent.

“This doesn't mean that we will raise the millage,” Christy said. “It just means we won't go above that value.”

If the board doesn't draft such a resolution at Thursday's meeting, the district would have to have a preliminary budget in place by the end of the month. With the resolution in place, the district would have until May 29 to adopt a preliminary budget and until June 30 to pass a final budget.

“(The resolution) puts us back in the same situation we've been in the last several years,” Christy said.

Because of higher property values under the 2012 Allegheny County reassessment, the district will need to drop millage from the current rate of 23.15 mills. It could then raise taxes from the new rate by up to 2.1 percent.

With Carlynton planning district-wide renovations, Christy said the board may want to consider earmarking some of the money from the fund balance for short-term projects. The district currently has about $14.8 million in its fund balance, with $400,000 assigned for future increases in Public School Employees' Retirement System rates.

“We're in an enviable situation having approximately $15 million in our fund balance,” Christy said. “So once the board determines what they're planning to do in the near term, within the next year, I think some conversations will have to be discussed on moving some of that money.”

Options include a capital improvement fund or just a specific account inside the fund balance. The capital improvement fund could be riskier, Christy said, because it's hard to get money out of those funds if it ends up not being needed for renovations.

Board President David Roussos said officials will “figure out what makes the most sense,” but he thinks putting money aside specifically for renovation projects is a good idea.

“We know we're going to use it for renovations, and let's just do that,” Roussos said. “Let's allocate it for that. Let's take some steps to commit ourselves publicly.”

Roussos said the district would likely use a significant portion of its remaining fund balance for renovations, leaving some additional money available there “as a cushion.”

As the district gets a more extensive renovation plan, it can begin looking into bond issues and other methods to finance it in addition to the fund balance, Christy said.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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