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Preliminary budget being drafted for Brentwood schools

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10:32 p.m.

A first draft of Brentwood Borough School District's 2013-14 budget likely will go on display for public viewing next week.

Board members weighed the options at their meeting Monday: agreeing as they have done in the past several years to not raise taxes for the upcoming school year above the state issued index of 2.4 percent pursuant to Act 1 or preparing a preliminary budget to go on public display next week.

“There are so many unknowns so far in the budget process,” board Vice President David Schaap said. Board members, in an 8-0 vote Monday, agreed to have administrators prepare the 2013-14 proposed preliminary budget to be available for public review following next week's board meeting.

“There are a lot of variable factors,” business manager Jennifer Pesanka said, recommending board members pass a proposed budget in January, per state requirements, instead of opting to not raise taxes above the set index.

“The index just isn't working in our favor.”

Court-mandated countywide reassessments have left many unknowns with the budget, Superintendent Ronald Dufalla said. Numerous property appeals still are under way and final property values for Brentwood are not yet known, he said.

“We're talking about some substantial appeals, commercial appeals in particular,” Dufalla said.

An early draft of the 2013-14 budget showed costs increasing by about $600,000 for the upcoming school year, with a budget of $20 million, officials said.

The district's tax rate of 28.27 mills also must be adjusted to become “revenue neutral.” District officials still are finalizing those numbers, they said.

With the reassessments, district officials must use an adjusted index rate — set at 2.4 percent, Dufalla said. If taxes were raised to the index, it would only bring in an additional $200,000 Pesanka said.

“Regardless of what option you take, you're still going to be dipping into your fund balance,” Dufalla said.

With the passage of the preliminary budget in January, though, Brentwood officials will have options.

“We don't have to raise taxes at all by doing that, we can actually leave them even. But, we have the possibility of raising to the index and also applying for exceptions – especially for the increase pensions costs, which is another $500,000 this year,” Schaap said.

Approving the budget in January allows Pennsylvania districts to apply to the state for referendum exceptions to help offset retirement and insurance costs. If they are denied the exception, district officials can apply to have a referendum placed on the ballot seeking resident approval for a tax increase above the index.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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