Pine, Richland to see tax hike to fund school budget
By Deborah Deasy
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 8:02 p.m.
The property tax rate is going up in Pine and Richland townships to help fund the Pine-Richland School District's $69.5 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
School directors voted 5-3 on June 10 to approve the budget and collect a 2.6-percent increase in tax revenue by setting a tax rate of 19.2083 mills for the coming school year.
The budget also proposes using $275,500 of the school district's fund balance — unspent savings — to supplement anticipated revenue of $69.3 million to pay anticipated expenses of $69.5 million
But no instructional teaching positions will be eliminated and no classes will be cut to shrink growing expenses.
Those increasing expenses include about $1.7 million in new bills for construction loans, employer pension contributions, and employees' health-insurance premiums.
The district's new millage will result in a $4,387 property-tax bill for the owner of a home assessed at $228,400 — the 2013 median home assessment in the district, after the 2012 reassessment of property values across Allegheny County.
Last year, the owner of a home with the median assessment paid the school district about $300 less.
Before the county reassessed property values last year, the owner of a home with a median assessment — formerly $179,200 in the district — paid the school district $4,088 in property taxes at this school year's rate of 22.8150 mills.
School directors Peter Lyons, Dennis Sundo, Jeff Banyas, Katie Shogan and Laura Ohlund voted to approve the new budget.
“A lot of thought and work is behind it,” Lyons said. “We do have significant increase in our employee benefits expenses. We do have a $700,000 increase in our debt service. We've done a lot of building in this district.”
Shogan and Banyas both expressed a reluctance to cut academics to save money.
“We cannot go after programs,” Shogan said.
School directors Stephen Hawbaker, Marc Casciani and Therese Dawson voted against the spending plan and tax increase. School director Virginia Goebel was absent.
“There have been no cuts,” Casciani said. “When I look at no cuts, I just do not accept the baseline of a tax increase.”
Earlier this year, district officials requested and got permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to increase the property-tax revenue by more than 2 percent — the district's predetermined “index,” or the maximum amount it might increase property tax revenue from year to year, without such permission.
“I would be willing to vote for a 2-percent (property) tax increase ... but not this amount,” Hawbaker said about 2.6-percent increase included in the budget.
“There's got to be something we can do to cut our costs,” he said.
Hawbaker also said he would rather see the district use money from its fund balance, its savings, rather than placing more of a burden on taxpayers.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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