ShareThis Page

Greater Latrobe School District aims to forgo tax millage rate hike

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Greater Latrobe school board is eyeing the 2014-15 budget with hopes that the district can remain financially stable.

The board has the option to raise the cap on the tax millage rate if members adopt a resolution by Jan. 30, but business administrator Dan Watson said he and the finance committee were not expecting that to be necessary.

With the cap, the district can still increase the millage, but no higher than 2.08 mills, which would raise $696,800 in revenues, Watson said during a preliminary budget presentation last week.

If the board chooses to request an increase on the millage cap, it would have to pass a preliminary budget by February.

Watson said he and the finance committee believe the district is financially stable enough to forgo that option.

“Our recommendation is to adopt the resolution and operate within the index,” he said. “We believe we'll be able to do that and be fine. We'll continue to evaluate all the operating expenses, and we'll continue to review potential revenue funding sources.”

While the overall budget is projected to have a $1.2 million increase in revenue, a shortfall of $719,860 is projected for 2014-15, after accounting for increases in state retirement benefit funds, known as the Public School Employee Retirement System, Watson said.

The retirement fund increases are projected at about half of the overall budget expenses, he said.

Over the next 10 years, the district's contribution obligation will increase, but officials are trying to take steps to anticipate that steady rise, he said.

“It's important to note that while it may appear that our budget is increasing, we're doing some things strategically to help to control costs, to generate revenue, so we're not as negatively impacted by that large increase as we might have been,” he said. State and federal funding amounts have not yet been determined, but Watson said he assumed figures similar to current funding for this preliminary projection.

The school district's revenues will carry increases from local taxes, however.

Watson projects a local revenue increase for 2014-15 of about $407,058, including $114,667 in real estate tax and $150,000 in earned income tax.

The earned income tax is now withheld by employers, which allowed for better collections, Watson said.

“Maybe some individuals who have slipped through the cracks before are no longer doing that, so that generates additional revenue for the school district,” he said, adding that this is most likely a one-time increase.

School board member Michael Zorch asked Watson about the state of the district's fund balance.

The administrator said the district has about $3.5 million in the fund balance, of which about $2.5 million is undesignated funds, but he does not recommend using that to cover shortfalls from annual expenses.

“That's one-time money: Once you spend it, it's gone,” he said. “If you utilize it for recurring costs like salaries, benefits, etc., those expenses are there year after year after year; that revenue is gone.”

In other business, auditor Barb Terek reported to the board that the 2013 audit had no deficiencies or noncompliance.

“We didn't have to make any modifications for your financial statements to be in accordance with commonly accepted accounting principals,” said Terek of Greensburg-based Horner, Wible and Terek.

The 2013 balances ended with $265,000 less than budgeted in expenditures and $865,000 more in expected revenues.

Watson said that was partially because of gifts like those from the Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation and the McFeely-Rogers Foundation.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.