29 Pittsburgh-area school districts get state OK to exceed cap on tax increases
State education officials have given more than a third of Pennsylvania's school districts — including 29 in the Pittsburgh area — permission to raise property taxes higher than a predetermined cap would allow.
A 2006 law — Act 1 — requires districts to keep tax increases within a so-called “index” that limits the amount they can levy based on a formula calculated by the state.
To increase taxes above the cap, districts must get an exception from the state or ask voters to approve a referendum, said Tim Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education.
Exceptions are granted if districts need the money to:
• Meet pension obligations.
• Pay for special education.
• Make payments on previous construction debt.
• Pay for construction that was approved by voters.
“The law is a balancing act between residents' ability to pay taxes versus what schools need to continue operating,” Eller said. “It's there to keep school boards from increasing spending at alarming rates without giving voters a say or having it subject to checks and balances.”
But just because a district gets an exception does not mean it will use it, Eller said.
This school year, $48.2 million of the $159.9 million approved, or 30 percent, was spent by districts.
In 2011-12, $95.5 million of the $265.8 million, or 36 percent, in approved exceptions was spent.
While the board of the Franklin Regional School District in Westmoreland County approved a preliminary budget this year that would require voters to approve a tax increase above the index, district officials have no plans to seek it.
“We had to make that decision on whether or not to apply for the exception,” said Jon Perry, the district's business manager. “We have no intention of utilizing it.”
Act 1 requires districts submit a preliminary budget in February. But a final budget does not have to be approved until June 30.
Franklin Regional's preliminary budget for 2013-14 earmarked $528,473 in spending that exceeded the state index and would require a 1.57 mill tax increase above the 3.33 mill hike already called for in the spending plan.
The state approved raising taxes by only 1.48 mills, which would leave a $30,507 unfunded hole in the budget.
A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.The South Fayette School District had $914,255 in its preliminary budget that exceeded the state index.
The state approved raising taxes by only 0.3 mills above the index, which leaves $567,685 in the budget that is unfunded.
“We continue to make cuts in our budget and will work to avoid having to go to taxpayers for more money,” Superintendent Bille Pearce Rondinelli said. “Our only goal is to whittle it down.”
Staff writer Amanda Dolasinski contributed to this report. Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 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.
- State lawmaker proposes increasing cost of state fishing licenses
- Pittsburgh schools chief Lane stepping down next summer
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto: Public has stake in Penguins
- Saudi King Salman assured on Iran nuclear deal in U.S. trip
- Belle Vernon woman visits ship like lander she helped build as WWII welder
- West Jefferson Hills schools close because of gun threat
- Construction to close roads in O’Hara, Baldwin Borough
- Pittsburgh Zoo staff caring for African lion suffering from seizure condition
- Truck hits teen cyclist, goes over Brighton Heights hillside
- Shaler man charged with homicide, abuse of corpse in McKeesport woman’s death
- Asking price for Penguins franchise said to be at a record $750M