Fox Chapel Area approves spending plan
By Tawnya Panizzi
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Fox Chapel Area School Board on Monday night approved its 2013-14 budget, cutting the tax rate by 3.1 mills, but many homeowners aren't likely to see that break reflected on their tax bill.
The $89.6 million budget carries a tax rate of 18.44 mills, down from 21.5 mills in 2012-13.
Allegheny County Reassessments, however, show the district's median home value of $202,300 will increase in assessed value by 16 percent to $234,000. Some will increase by as much as 30 percent, making the average home assessment climb to $266,000.
Homeowners who received the Homestead exclusion will get about a $10,000 discount.
That means the owner of an average home assessed at $224,000 will pay $4,141 next year, about the same as the $4,179 this year, despite the tax rate decrease.
The owner of a home assessed at $256,000 will pay $4,730, $551 more than last year.
District Coordinator of Communications Bonnie Berzonski said the net assessed value of taxable properties for 2013 is about $3.2 billion, up 16.8 percent over last year.
As of May, there were 2,913 properties in some level of assessment appeal. Berzonski said the total value of pending appeals is more than $1 billion.
In 2013-14, plans call for about $86 million in expenses, up $3.8 million.
Highlights include a 7 percent increase in health coverage costs, a 1.4 percent increase in salaries and an 81 percent increase in workers' compensation costs.
“This is due to market changes and a three-year average of district claims,” Berzonski said.
Tuition costs for charter schools are expected to climb by 8.6 percent.
The district's contribution rate to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) will increase by 4.5 percent, which means an extra $2 million paid by the district. The total contribution is $7.3 million.
School Board President Joel Weinstein said the pension problem is plaguing boards across the state. The cumulative amounts are straining school budgets to the point where Weinstein said state legislators need to change the policy without delay.
Fox Chapel Area has money set aside to maintain the pension payments for now, but Weinstein said it won't last long.
Berzonski said that under the current rate structure, the district will pay about $120 million over the next 10 years to PSERS.
“It has necessitated the district to prepare for shortfalls in the budget,” she said.
The district has $10.2 million in fund balance reserves to cover potential PSERS increases, she said. The district will use $2.1 million this year.
“This will bridge the gap (for funding PSERS) until the tax rates can keep pace and fund these costs,” she said.
At the same time, the district is gearing up for major improvements at the high school, middle school and three elementary schools. The district issued bonds during 2013 and currently holds $46 million to pay for the upgrades. The bonds were structured so that no extra debt expenses would be required to pay for the renovations, Berzonski said.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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