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School board member suggests tax rebate plan in Plum

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Plum property owners could get another incentive to pay taxes early to the school district in the form of a tax rebate for 2015-16.

But it's not clear that there will be enough support for such a plan suggested by Plum School Board President Sal Colella.

Colella has an eye on potential problems with the 2015-16 budget that is set to include increased costs for health care and retirees.

“Cash flow is not looking good for 2015-16,” Colella said during last week's school board finance committee meeting.

Colella wants board members to consider increasing property taxes to the limit allowed under state Act 1 index for 2014-15, estimated to generate $795,000 more for the district.

A hike to the limit would raise the millage by 0.54. The current school district tax rate is 18.758 mills.

Colella, though, proposes rebating it back in the form of discounts to those who pay their school property taxes on time and putting property owners on notice that a tax increase to the index limit would be enacted for the 2015-16 school year.

The finance committee is expected to discuss the proposal further during the next meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 20 in the school board conference room at the high school, 900 Elicker Road.

Revenue for 2014-15 is projected at $57.3 million, and expenses are estimated at $58.1 million.

Board members last week reached a consensus to use nearly $800,000 in money from the district's reserve fund to balance the spending plan.

A vote on the preliminary budget was expected on Tuesday night.

District solicitor Lee Price said board members are permitted to enact Colella's plan.

“We have to shore up our tax flow” for 2015-16, Colella said, adding that if the district has no cash flow model for that year, “it will tell students their programs will be cut” for 2015-16.

Plum tax collector Harry Schlegel said he mails 11,400 property tax bills after the school board approves a balanced budget. This typically occurs at the end of June.

Property owners who pay their taxes by Aug. 31 receive a 2 percent discount.

Colella said he would set the discount higher than 2 percent to generate a rebate for the tax hike.

“They set the discount period and the amount,” Schlegel said.

The proposal in its current form would not provide tax relief for property owners who pay the face amount by Oct. 31 as well as those who are on payment plans.

Tax payments are due on Aug. 31, Oct. 31 and Dec. 31 for property owners who are on payment plans.

There is no discount offered with a payment plan.

Schlegel's office manages about 400 payment plans of the 11,400 tax bills that are sent.

Colella said he wants to talk with Schlegel about the plan and will explore providing a rebate for those who are on payment plans.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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