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Franklin Regional school board leans toward 'frustrating' tax hike

| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Mounting retirement contributions and no state solution have left several Franklin Regional school board members resigned to the idea of a tax increase.

Board members will vote June 17 whether or not to raise taxes in light of a statewide pension crisis that will see the district's required retirement contribution rise from $4.1 million to $5.3 million.

“It's very frustrating. There is no seeming recognition of the train coming down the tracks by anybody who is willing to actually do anything, or should I say, can do anything,” school board President Larry Borland said. “It will be an interesting trainwreck, but it's statewide.”

Director of Finance Jon Perry has been advocating for a 0.83-mill tax rate increase for the past several months. Perry said that the district will drain its reserve funds quickly if the board doesn't raise taxes.

“You have to look at some things from a multi-year perspective. If you look at this year in a vacuum, you might be able to get away with a no-tax increase year,” Perry said. “But over the next three years, it really doesn't add up to keep up with just the PSERS increases.”

The tax rate for Franklin Regional property owners is 87.86 mills, equal to $2,964 for properties with the district-median assessment of $33,735. The proposed increase would raise that tax bill by $28.

Board member Roberta Cook said the district's foresight in setting aside nearly $6 million to help pay for retirement increases has been helpful. When the fund started in 2008, some board members were sure the state would address the issue before the large increases came into effect, Cook said.

Seven years later, that hasn't happened. Cook said she is pretty sure it's going to remain the district's responsibility.

“They're not going to fix this pension thing. They're not,” Cook said. “And the money the governor promised us months ago, he doesn't have it.”

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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