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Property taxes may go up in Fox Chapel

| Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 10:54 a.m.

Fox Chapel Area School District property owners will pay slightly more in taxes for the 2014-15 school year if the board approves its tentative budget in June.

The board on Monday passed a proposed $94 million plan with a property tax rate of 18.6283 mills, up 0.1808 of a mill from this year. This year's millage is 18.4475.

If the final budget is approved as it stands, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,863 in taxes, up from $1,845 this year.

The median home in the district is assessed at $265,000. The owner of that home would pay $4,936 in taxes, up from $4,889 this year.

Property owners who applied and were approved for the homestead exclusion discount from Allegheny County can deduct about $9,900 from the taxable value of their home.

The district is expected to receive $1.4 million from gaming funds to be distributed, as intended in the Taxpayer Relief Act, through the homestead exclusion.

There are nearly 8,000 properties in the district that qualified for the discount. If the number is adjusted by the county, it could affect the amount of the final reduction.

The tentative budget calls for $89.5 million in expenses, up about 3.7 percent from this year.

Highlights include:

• A 3.27-percent increase in salaries. There is no anticipated reduction in staff.

• A 5.75-percent increase in premium-rate health-insurance costs.

• The district contributing $9.6 million to the Public School Employees' Retirement System, or PSERS, up from $7.4 million.

“It is estimated that under the current rate structure proposed for funding (PSERS), the district will pay out nearly $70 million over the next eight years,” said Bonnie Berzonski, district coordinator of communications. “These unprecedented increases, combined with the limitations on increasing tax rates imposed under Act 1, have necessitated the district to prepare for shortfalls in the budget.”

The district currently has committed fund balance reserves of $12 million to cover the anticipated PSERS increases.

“The district will need to utilize $2.5 million of these funds in 2014-2015 to bridge the gap in funding for PSERS until the tax rates can keep pace and fund these costs,” Berzonski said.

Other methods of preparation include a continued reduction of payroll costs through staff attrition.

At the same time, the district maintains a reserve to help with the recently launched $46 million renovation project that will affect all six buildings.

The district issued bonds during 2013 that were structured so that no additional debt service expenditures would be required to pay for the project, Berzonski said.

Residents will have a chance to view the budget and ask questions during a public information session at 6:30 p.m. June 5 in the large-group-instruction room at Fox Chapel Area High School.

The board is expected to discuss the budget during its meetings at 7 p.m. June 9 and 16; it is scheduled to adopted the final spending plan at its June 16 meeting. The June 9 meeting is in the O'Hara Elementary School auditorium, and the June 16 meeting is in the large-group-instruction room at Fox Chapel Area High School.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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