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Mt. Lebanon School District to charge for sports, extracurriculars

Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The Mt. Lebanon School Board passed an $83.16 million budget on Monday night, instituting fees ranging from $5 to $40 per year for students participating in sports and extracurricular activities.

Mt. Lebanon joins its neighbors in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair in charging such fees as a way for districts to help balance their budgets. At least six other school districts in the region charge some form of activity fees, ranging from a flat fee to a sliding scale of charges depending on the cost to the district of operating the sport or activity.

Under Mt. Lebanon's fee schedule, students will pay $40 if they participate in high school sports, $20 for middle school sports, $40 for band activities and $5 for intramural sports, board President Elaine Cappucci said. Clubs such as the Model U.N. or forensics teams are not affected, she said.

Board member Mary Birks asked the board to consider establishing an “angel fund” for families who might not be able to afford the fees and to set a cap on how much a family might pay for having particularly active kids.

“We have some large families with lots of kids who participate in a lot of things, so I want to make sure we address that,” she said.

The final 2013-14 budget, passed by a 6-3 vote with board members Scott Goldman, Dale Ostergaard and Dan Remely opposed, lowers the tax rate to 22.61 mills even as court-mandated property reassessments that took effect this year raised the district's total tax revenue by about 1.9 percent.

Whether the new rate — $2,261 in taxes for every $100,000 a property is worth — raises or lowers an individual property owner's bill will depend on how that owner fared in the reassessment. Properties whose assessments went up more than the average of about 22 percent for Mt. Lebanon will be hit with a tax increase; those whose assessments went up by less than the average will get a decrease or stay about the same.

The activity fees, which are expected to raise about $50,000, were among $715,405 in cuts and new revenues included to balance the budget without dipping into the district's cash reserves. The budget reduces school staffing, travel expenses, consultant fees and teacher allowance at Office Depot for school supplies.

With many property owners awaiting rulings on appeals of their reassessments, Finance Director Janice Klein said last week that she based the tax change on her estimates of what Mt. Lebanon's tax base will be when all the appeals have been decided. Allegheny County officials estimated that all the real estate in Mt. Lebanon was worth about $2.7 billion after the reassessment, but Klein's budget was based on appeals reducing that to about $2.6 billion.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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