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Pine-Richland considers ways to increase tax rate

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Pine-Richland School District officials appear unlikely to get state permission to raise property taxes by 4.24 percent, as proposed in the school district's preliminary 2013-14 budget.

The state could, however, permit the district to increase property taxes by 3-to-3.5 percent, according to district finance director Dana Siford.

A decrease in the district's special education costs, from 2010 to 2012, has eliminated one of only two reasons that Pine-Richland School District might seek the state's OK to raise property taxes beyond 2 percent this year, according to Siford.

Siford said the school district still qualifies, however, to seek state permission to raise Richland and Pine residents' property tax rate beyond 2 percent, in order to pay the district's annually increasing — and state-mandated — contribution to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.

“I ran some preliminary estimates last week on what our referendum exceptions could be,” Siford said after the Feb. 11 meeting of Pine-Richland School Board.

Act 1 — the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 — regulates permissible taxation by Pennsylvania school districts and requires districts to file a request with the Pennsylvania Department of Education for an exception to raise property taxes — without a referendum vote — above a state-set rate, which is 2 percent for Pine-Richland School District.

Pine-Richland School Board unanimously voted Feb. 11 to approve the district's proposed 4.24 percent tax increase as part of the district's nearly $70 million money plan for the upcoming school year.

The district must file, by March 7, the proposed, preliminary budget — with its request to raise property taxes beyond 2 percent — with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

But the district officials aren't obligated to raise property taxes for 2013-14, even they receive permission to exceed the 2-percent limit on tax increases.

The school district's proposed, preliminary budget for 2013-14 anticipates total expenditures of $69,424,035 and total revenues of $68,793,482, including the added revenue from a 4.24 percent increase in property taxes.

The tax increase would help cover a projected $1.8 million deficit in anticipated revenue versus expenses.

The preliminary budget also proposes to use about $630,500 from the district's fund balance — surplus savings — for revenue.

Projected expenses for 2013-14 school year include six-figure increases in the cost of district employees' health insurance, the district's debt repayments, and the district's contribution to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.

Pine-Richland School Board will vote on a final budget in June.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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