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Size of anticipated tax hike at Franklin Regional drops

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

As time passes, the size of the expected tax-rate increase at Franklin Regional shrinks.

Officials approved a preliminary budget last week with a 3.33-mill increase — which is down from the 4.11–mill increase that officials anticipated at the beginning of February. That size of the expected rate increase likely will continue to drop as officials receive more financial data.

“I have no intent of raising taxes (3.3 mills),” board member Kim Bondi said.

Officials expect to spend $49.7 million in 2013-14, nearly 4 percent more than the current school year. But officials also expect to receive more from the state than in the past.

Under the budget proposal released by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this month, Franklin Regional would receive $12.7 million, nearly $250,000 more than finance director Jon Perry had anticipated. That includes a $150,000 increase in the district's basic subsidy and the proposed renewal of a $105,000 accountability block grant. That grant has been used to fund the district's full-day kindergarten program for the past several years.

State regulations require officials of school districts to begin reviewing their budgets by January, despite not having much firm financial information. Under Act 1 — the state legislation that distributes gambling revenue as property-tax relief — school officials must decide by the end of January if the district will stick to a preset limit for a tax-rate increase.

“At the end of February, we'll have better data,” Perry said.

The district is permitted to raise the tax rate by 1.75 mills under a state-set limit. Officials agreed last week to request an additional 1.48-mill increase from the state to help with mandated retirement-contribution hikes.

However, officials earlier this month said they expect to need about a 1.55-mill increase to balance the final budget.

Board Vice President Joe Seymour said he expects some of the district's $1.1 million deficit to be trimmed throughout March and April. Seymour was optimistic about the size of any potential tax increase.

“We're going to be whittling down to a number between $500,000 and $1.1 million,” Seymour said. “I think even $500,000 is on the high end.”

In Franklin Regional, one mill generates $335,000 in tax revenue.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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