Share This Page

Budget process eye-opening for new Franklin Regional officials

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The 2014 budget season was an eye-opening experience for several new Franklin Regional School Board members, as they realized that state-mandated costs meant a tax rate increase was necessary.

On Monday, the school board approved a 0.83-mill tax rate increase by a vote of 8-1, with board member Dennis Pavlik dissenting.

All four freshman board members — Gregg Neavin, Susan Ilgenfritz, George Harding and Jeremy Samek — campaigned on fiscal responsibility, and all four voted to raise taxes.

“I never realized how very little of a portion of the budget we have control of on a local basis,” said Neavin, who campaigned on the principle that not enough was being done to save money in the district. “(State-mandated retirement contributions) is an ongoing challenge across the state.”

During last year's campaign, the four new members criticizing prior boards for raising taxes so frequently. This year's tax increase is Franklin Regional's 11th in the past 12 years.

Board member Susan Ilgenfritz, who wanted the district to “think outside of the box” before raising taxes again, said the reality of school budgets is very different once a person is sitting at the board table.

“I didn't see the full picture before. As a board member, you're privileged to a lot of sensitive information,” Ilgenfritz said. “Now that I'm on the board, I've learned that we take things one year at a time.”

Board member George Harding, who originally questioned which costs to the district actually were fixed, said he thinks the board has looked everywhere to make cuts without hurting the district's programs.

The board faced a $281,000 deficit after five months of whittling away at the budget, business manager Jon Perry said. Board Vice President Herb Yingling said the board initially needed to make about $2 million worth of changes to the budget.

The biggest problem, Harding said, is a $1.2 million increase to the state-mandated retirement contribution.

“It's a big monster out there that needs to be fed,” Harding said.

Despite his dissenting vote, Pavlik said there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with the budget. Instead, he wants to see the board work harder to cut costs.

“I don't feel we've done enough to investigate cost savings,” Pavlik said. “We can't keep going back to the taxpayers.”

The district's $50.3 million budget includes $285,000 from a committed fund balance for retirement contributions.

The tax rate for Franklin Regional property owners is 88.51 mills, equal to $2,992 for properties with the district-median assessment of $33,735. The increase will raise the tax bill by $28.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.