Freeport Area School District to consider 2 percent tax hike

| Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 11:33 p.m.

Wednesday's vote on next school year's budget promises to be a close one.

The Freeport Area School Board will consider final adoption of a nearly $25 million spending plan that calls for a 2 percent property tax increase.

Because the district crosses county lines, the actual amount of the tax hike will be different in Armstong and Butler counties.

The average Buffalo Township property owner will pay $50 a year more while an average homeowner in Freeport or South Buffalo will pay $37 more.

One board faction favors the tax increase to offset anticipated increases over the next three years when the board must borrow money to build a new junior high school.

Another faction, led by board President Mark Shoaf, favors using a fund balance that could total as much as $600,000 instead of raising taxes to have $200,000 more to spend next school year .

"I don't want to ask the people for more money until we need it," Shoaf said.

Board member Michael Huth believes a tax increase now might reduce even larger possible increases anticipated over each of the next three school years.

Wednesday is the last scheduled board meeting before the June 30 deadline to pass a budget.

In other business

• Five new teachers are expected to be hired on Wednesday, replacing retiring teachers.

• The board also will consider three measures to recommend to the state Legislature via the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

One would mandate that state fund 61.9 percent of school districts as prescribed by a 1974 law. State funding now is about 41.5 percent.

A second would be for the state to subsidize retirement funds by 50 percent over the next several years.

A third measure would demand the state reimburse districts for increased transportation costs.

• On Wednesday, the school board will look to transfer as much as $1 million from the capital reserve fund to repair the roof at the district's aging junior high school building.

The current roof, installed in 1985, is near the end of its usable life, according to Business Manager William Reilly.

The roof consists of about 1,600 square feet.

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About the tax hike

Here's how taxes would change on a house in Freeport or South Buffalo with an average assessed value of $30,500:

Old tax rate: 52.3 mills

New tax rate: 53.5 mills

Old tax bill: $1,595

New tax bill: $1,632

Tax increase: $37

Here's how taxes would change on a Buffalo Township house with an average assessed value of $20,000:

Old tax rate: 121.6 mills

New tax rate: 124.1 mills

Old tax bill: $2,432

New tax bill: $2,482

Tax increase: $50

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