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Duquesne school tax rate lowered

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:56 a.m.

Duquesne City School District has a $16.89 million 2013-14 budget with a reduction in the tax rate from 21.1 to 17.5 mills.

The district anticipates getting $13.63 million in state funding — an increase of nearly $2 million from 2012-13 — as well as $1.35 million in federal funds and $1.68 million in local tax revenue.

It also expects to use $1.51 million out of a fund balance of $1.73 million.

“This is subject to the audits that are performed in October,” court-appointed receiver Paul B. Long said at a business meeting on Tuesday night.

Long approved the budget, but a revenue-neutral tax rate was approved 6-0 by the elected board.

President DeWayne Tucker, vice president Calvina Harris and board members Sonya Chambers, Maxine Thomas, Burton Comensky and Cedric Robertson were present, while members Laura Elmore, Rosia Reid and Theresa Thomas were absent.

“Under the Pennsylvania constitution only elected officials can levy taxes,” district Solicitor William Andrews said. “The budget is not a levy of taxes, it is a plan for expenses.”

Still, under a system set in place by state law and Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman for a district under “severe financial recovery” status, the elected board can act on taxes and bond issues only at Long's direction.

The direction of Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. led to Allegheny County's 2012 property reassessment, which raised values in Duquesne enough to require the first change in the millage in 14 years.

The budget anticipates a 9.6 percent increase in local tax revenue, but acting superintendent Paul Rach said that was because of increased revenue expected from Act 511 taxes.

Rates for Act 511 taxes also are unchanged for 2013-14.

Rach said the district also is setting up a program to bring autistic and life skills students back from “several approved private schools” to Duquesne Education Center.

That will reduce out-of-district placement, other than transfers to East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area districts, from $1.54 million to $1.25 million.

As for East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area, both of which take Duquesne youngsters in grades 7-12 under state laws dating back to 2007, those districts will get $4 million total in tuition in 2013-14.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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