TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

29 Pittsburgh-area school districts get state OK to exceed cap on tax increases

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Over the top

Following are the area school districts that received exceptions from the state on the amount they can raise property taxes. For more details, visit: www.education.state.pa.us and click on “2013-14 Report on Referendum Exceptions.”

Allegheny County: Avonworth, Bethel Park, Brentwood, Clairton, Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Riverview, South Fayette and West Allegheny

Armstrong County: Armstrong and Freeport

Beaver County: Ambridge, Freedom, Rochester and Western Beaver

Butler County: Seneca Valley and Slippery Rock

Fayette County: Laurel Highland

Indiana County: Indiana

Somerset County: Somerset, Shanksville-Stoneycreek and Windber

Washington County: Burgettstown and Washington

Westmoreland County: Derry, Franklin Regional and New Kensington-Arnold

Daily Photo Galleries

Allegheny Photo Galleries

Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

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 tlarussa@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. State lawmaker proposes increasing cost of state fishing licenses
  2. Pittsburgh schools chief Lane stepping down next summer
  3. Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto: Public has stake in Penguins
  4. Saudi King Salman assured on Iran nuclear deal in U.S. trip
  5. Belle Vernon woman visits ship like lander she helped build as WWII welder
  6. West Jefferson Hills schools close because of gun threat
  7. Construction to close roads in O’Hara, Baldwin Borough
  8. Pittsburgh Zoo staff caring for African lion suffering from seizure condition
  9. Truck hits teen cyclist, goes over Brighton Heights hillside
  10. Shaler man charged with homicide, abuse of corpse in McKeesport woman’s death
  11. Asking price for Penguins franchise said to be at a record $750M