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Slight tax increase proposed in Norwin

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 3:16 a.m.

Property taxes could climb by less than 1 mill in the Norwin School District.

The district's 2013-14 $61.4 million preliminary budget, which the board unanimously approved on Monday, requires an increase of .65 of a mill, and approximately $554,000 from the district's general fund, to be considered balanced, according to John Wilson, director of business affairs.

The preliminary budget, which is an increase of approximately 5 percent compared to the 2012-13 $58.9 million spending plan, brings the millage rate to 68.1, which includes 1.2 mills levied for the Norwin Public Library.

The district's last tax increase was during the 2012-13 budget cycle, when the board raised property taxes by 1.45 mills.

The average assessed value of a home in Westmoreland County in the Norwin School District is approximately $22,500, Wilson said. Under the new millage, the tax bill for a home with an average assessed value will increase by $14.62, to $1,554.75, Wilson said.

Wilson said the budget's projected revenue sits at $60 million, while expenses are at $61.4 million, without the use of the fund balance.

An inflated contribution to the state retirement system accounted for the largest budget increase, which was $1.3 million, Wilson said.

Wilson said the projected fund balance is $4.05 million as of June 30, and it's expected to rise to $4.27 million at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Although administrators plan to continue whittling down the projected expenses, Wilson said he does not expect to negate the tax increase. Instead, officials hope to decrease the amount of fund balance necessary to balance the budget, he said.

The $554,000 from the district's general fund accounts for approximately 1.5 mills of taxes, Wilson said.

“That makes us uncomfortable,” Wilson said. “We're looking for some additional revenues and to cut more expenditures.”

Ultimately, Wilson said he hopes to reduce the general fund contribution to $250,000.

Over the next several weeks, Wilson said officials expect to see a decrease in workers' compensation insurance premiums because of a lack of any claims filed over several years. He also expects to look into reworking leases on copier machines and filing real estate tax appeals on several commercial properties.

Although the district does not anticipate any furloughs, Wilson said administrators do not plan to fill three teaching positions, which are vacant because of retirements.

School board president Robert Perkins said officials plan to continue working toward reducing costs, but also would like to avoid cutting educational programming. Eventually, the district may have to look into cutting back on programming next year, he said.

“We have worked hard to reduce costs without hurting the quality of education,” Perkins said. “But if these trends continue, we will face the difficult choice of cutting educational programs.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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