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Hampton school district officials predict small tax hike

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Hampton Township School District officials are predicting the need for a small increase in the property-tax rate to balance the 2014-15 school year budget as they begin the early stages of the budgetary process.

The $45.8 million proposed preliminary budget is a 4.35 percent increase over the 2013-14 budget and has a projected net shortfall of $1.2 million.

The school board is considering closing the gap by using $573,000 of the Public School Employees' Retirement System, or PSERS, stabilization fund it created to help offset Hampton's annual contribution rate through the 2025-26 school year; $143,781 of the unreserved fund balance; and a tax-rate increase of 0.3 of a mill.

The current rate is 17.59 mills and equals a tax bill of $1,759 for a resident with a home assessed at $100,000 or $3,518 for a resident with a home assessed at $200,000.

The proposed increase would result in an additional $30 for a resident with a home assessed at $100,000 or $60 for a resident with a home assessed at $200,000.

While Hampton officials anticipate the budget to change over the next six months, administrators were confident enough to recommend accepting the Act 1 index.

The school board was scheduled to vote on a resolution Jan. 13 not to exceed the Act 1 index, which establishes the maximum tax increase allowable for each school district without applying for an exception from the state Department of Education or seeking voter approval.

This year's index is 2.5 percent, which would cap the increase in the district's tax rate at 0.439 of a mill.

School board members expressed concern over several factors that could dramatically influence the 2014-15 budget, including health-insurance rates, staffing needs, and department and building budgets, all of which have not been finalized. The state preliminary education budget also will not be released until mid-February.

When asked if the total budgetary shortfall might be whittled down in the coming months, Superintendent John Hoover did not express certainty.

“At this point, I wouldn't be confident to say we can chip it away to zero,” Hoover said.

A preliminary budget will be approved by the Hampton school board in May and a final budget will be approved by June 30.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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