Plum School Board considers tax increase
With a $1.5 million deficit projected in the 2014-15 district budget, Plum School Board members want options with the spending plan.
The board is considering the possibility of approving a preliminary budget in January that would ask the Pennsylvania Department of Education for permission to increase the property-tax rate higher than the prescribed maximum increase of 2.9 percent of the millage because of exceptional expenses.
The district's current millage is 18.758. A property owner with a $150,000 home currently pays $2,814 a year in school taxes, according to tax collector Harry Schlegel. The owner of a $300,000 home currently pays $5,627 a year in school taxes.
Raising the tax rate to the maximum allowed would generate about $450,000 for the district, Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said during last week's finance committee meeting.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we only have 60 days,” Plum School Board member Sal Colella said after the meeting.
District business manager Eugene Marraccini during the Nov. 19 meeting gave board members a schedule of deadlines for the administration to adhere to in order for the board to have a preliminary budget to consider during the Jan. 28 school board meeting.
Marraccini said the district can seek exceptions from the state Department of Education in three categories: debt service, contributions to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) and special-education expenses.
Districts are required to apply to the department for approval for exceptions.
If the request for an exception is approved, the department determines the dollar amount of the expenditure for which the exception is sought and the tax-rate increase required to fund it, according to the department website.
If the department denies the request, the school district must reduce the tax-rate increase to no more than its maximum or submit a referendum question for voter approval in the next primary election.
“It's tough to get approval by taxpayers to raise their own taxes,” Marraccini said.
The business manager said the district does not qualify for an exception under the debt-service category.
The district's PSERS contributions have continued to increase in recent years and potentially could qualify as an exception, Marraccini said.
Glasspool said during last month's finance committee meeting that about $1.2 million of the $1.5 million projected deficit in next year's budget is due, in part, to the PSERS cost.
The final potential exception is special-education costs, which continue to increase, Marraccini said.
“We have had a steady increase in special-education costs,” Glasspool said.
The district has received about $2.2 million in state funding for special-education costs in each of the last few years, according to the district website. District officials did not provide by this paper's deadline how much the district has spent in recent years on the special-education program.
About 11 percent of the district's students are in special education, special-education supervisor Kathleen Shirey has said.
Also, district officials plan an increased focus on autism in the 2014-15 school year.
Board members last month approved the creation of an autism-support classroom at Center Elementary School. Shirey said 17 percent of the district's special-education children have been diagnosed with autism.
Marraccini said if the board decides to refrain from asking for a tax increase above the maximum, the board would vote on a preliminary budget in May and a final budget in June, as it traditionally has done.
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Alamo named as World Heritage site by United Nations
- Firefighters respond to two-alarm fire in McKeesport
- Westmoreland Cultural Trust moves to next phase of Palace capital campaign
- Bookings for August Wilson Center climb, but permanent board yet to be set
- Apple Hill Playhouse takes on an updated ‘Snow White’
- PennDOT team decides what spells trouble on vehicle license plates
- Fatal crash under investigation in Baden
- Pirates claim Ishikawa off waivers; Marte injured
- Greensburg woman has a lifetime of hosting foreign exchange students
- Westmoreland County on pace to surpass record for drug-related fatalities
- New Derry to celebrate its 200th birthday