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Baldwin-Whitehall board keeps same tax rate

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The millage is set to remain the same in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District for the coming school year, but if one board member gets his way, residents might even see a lower property-tax rate.

Baldwin-Whitehall School Board members, in an 8-0 vote last week, approved the district's preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year, which keeps the millage at 19.61. Board member Diana Kazour was absent.

One mill in Baldwin-Whitehall brings in about $1.8 million.

The budget, which has $62.9 million in expenditures and $62.4 million in revenue, uses $500,000 from the district's reserve to balance the budget.

The owner of a home assessed at $100,000 pays $1,961 a year in taxes to the district.

The budget includes no cuts to programs or staffing and allows for replacement of staff members that are slated to retire, business manager Mark Cherpak said.

Yet, with nearly $17 million in district's reserve, board member Martin Michael Schmotzer — who often repeats, “We have the money,” at board meetings as leaders look at various purchases — said he plans to propose a tax-rate decrease before board members vote on a final budget in June.

“We need to keep lowering it (the millage) if we're going to attract more young families into the school district,” Schmotzer said.

Baldwin-Whitehall has a nearly $17 million fund balance, as of June 30, 2013, Cherpak said. The district is projected to have a $1 million surplus at the end of the 2013-14 school year, which would bring the fund balance to about $18 million.

The fund balance includes about $3.8 million in committed funds, of which about $2.6 million is committed for benefit stabilization and $600,000 is committed to aid the district's cafeteria fund.

Of assigned funds in the district fund balance, there is about $900,000 set aside for capital reserves and $7.2 million for capital projects.

The district has about $4.8 million in unassigned money in the fund balance.

Schmotzer said residents should be getting some of that money back.

Next year's budget allows for several increases in costs, including retirement contributions, which are set to increase by 4.47 percent for next year, or $1.3 million, to about $6 million, Cherpak said.

Health insurance costs, also, are projected to increase by about 5.75 percent for the 2014-15 school year, about $300,000, to about $5.5 million, Cherpak said.

A contract for the nearly 300 support staff in Baldwin-Whitehall, which includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and maintenance employees, secretaries and paraprofessionals expires June 30, Cherpak said. Negotiations are ongoing. For budgetary purposes, though, Cherpak said, he included a projected 3-percent increase in pay for 2014-15.

The district's cafeteria fund, at the end of 2013-14, is projected to owe the general fund about $1.5 million.

With a new food-service director in place in the last year, Cherpak said, district leaders wanted to have a fresh start with the cafeteria fund.

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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