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Preliminary 2014-15 budget at Pine-Richland includes tax hike

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The Pine-Richland School Board adopted a preliminary 2014-15 budget that includes a 4-percent increase in the real-estate tax rate.

The preliminary budget passed with a 7-2 vote at the Feb. 10 meeting. School directors Theresa Dawson and Marc Casciani voted against it.

Pine-Richland's preliminary general-fund budget includes expenditures of approximately $73 million, up nearly $3.5 million from last year's budget, said Dana Siford, director of financial and operational services. To balance the budget, the district would take $502,964 from its reserves.

A chunk of the expenditure increase comes from Public School Employees' Retirement System contributions, which are estimated at $6.2 million in 2014-15, up from $4.8 million in the current budget. There also is an expected 9-percent increase in the cost of health benefits for employees, although, Siford said, officials hope to get that increase down to around 5 or 6 percent.

Another major increase in expenditures is construction services, which increased from $199,000 in 2013-2014 to $970,000 for 2014-2015.

Construction expenditures are expected to remain about $970,000 annually for the next five years as part of the five-year capital funding plan, which includes projects such as paving at the secondary campus, completion of the window-glass-replacement project at Richland Elementary, roof repairs at five school buildings, and various equipment repairs and replacements across the district.

Total revenue in the 2014-2015 preliminary budget is set at approximately $72.5 million, up nearly $3.3 million from the current budget.

The new property-tax rate would be 19.97 mills. A mill is expected to generate about $2.4 million for the 2014-15 school year.

State law requires school boards to approve and submit a preliminary budget to the state in February unless they adopt a resolution stating that they will not raise the tax rate more than the state index.

The preliminary budget is prone to change over the coming months, as it still is early in the budget season, district administrators said. The final budget will be adopted in June.

“Currently, there are many unknown costs and revenue projections for the school district,” Dennis Sundo, board treasurer, said at an earlier board meeting. “The administration will provide updates for both the board of directors and the public as they become available.”

Budget discussions will continue in finance committee meetings throughout the spring. Upcoming finance meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 24, March 24, April 28 and May 19 in the DeWitt Blank conference room of the district administration office.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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