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Tax increase approved for Gateway School District

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 12:15 p.m.

The Gateway School Board approved a tax increase for the 2013-14 school year and cut jobs to balance a $67.8 million budget.

School directors Bill Bailey, Scott Williams and Dave Magill dissented. The 2013-14 budget includes nearly $950,000 for new technology, which some school directors said is frivolous.

The 2-percent tax increase — which brings the 2013-14 millage rate to 18.8919 — amounts to about $40 a year for the owner of a valued at $107,900, the estimated average assessment in Monroeville. It represents about $15 for a home valued at $35,200, Pitcairn's average assessment.

The tax increase — the sixth in the last 11 years — could generate about $876,000. Rawson and Magill have criticized the budget's $2.3 million increase in expenditures, which factored in to the rate increase.

They fought to reduce spending on technology. Rawson said the increase is unfair to residents on fixed incomes and families who no longer have children in the schools.

“These people really can't afford a millage increase,” Rawson said. “In these times, I think we need to look and see if there are things that we could do without and not implement everything at one time.”

Magill and Rawson said a property tax increase also would scare away potential new businesses.

“You're making a bad move,” Magill said. “I can't be a part of that. I'm done.”

The board approved some personnel cuts, including leaving four teaching positions vacant.

Also, 18 lunchroom-aide positions were cut. Next school year, one lunchroom aide will work in each elementary school cafeteria. Teachers will help fill the void created by the cuts, said Bob Reger, assistant to the superintendent. Personnel cuts were due in part to a stagnant tax base, reduced government funding and declined enrollment.

School director Bob Elms said more tax revenue is needed to provide one-on-one teaching and high-quality programs.

“Our goals here are to reduce the achievement gap between the kids,” Elms said. “We can't reduce it by reducing staff. We're going the wrong way if we cut all these costs.”

Monroeville resident and school board candidate Chad Stubenbort said the school board should try harder to generate new revenue in lieu of a tax increase. Officials addressed two potential revenue generators during the budget process.

“The first being the facility rental fees, which were botched initially and scared some groups away,” Stubenbort said. “Luckily, the fees have been fixed to help bring some groups back.”

Stubenbort also said the district should expand advertising and sponsorship opportunities at Gateway.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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