Share This Page

Armstrong board passes preliminary spending plan

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

The Armstrong School Board took its first step toward raising real estate taxes for a third consecutive year on Monday night, passing a $96.8 million preliminary budget.

The spending plan's $3.5 million deficit remains, even with a millage increase of at least 1.84 mills, which is within the state's Act 1 index rate of 3 percent.

The board approved the preliminary budget 6-0, with board members Christopher Choncek, Stanley Berdell and Larry Robb absent.

The board has not passed a resolution stating it will not seek exceptions from Pennsylvania's Act 1, which limits how much a district can raise the real estate tax rate.

Armstrong School District assesses 56.64 mills of real estate tax. The increase would bring the tax rate to 58.47 mills and raise $978,712 for the district.

The tax rate could increase by almost half a mill more if the district seeks an exception to the Act 1 cap to help cover pension costs, said John Zenone, the district's business affairs director.

That would net an additional $263,000 for pension contributions, he said.

Solicitor Lee Price said the district must apply for the exception through the state's Department of Education. Although the district plans to apply for the extra millage, officials do not have to use it, he said.

The board agreed to apply for the exception after a 4-2 vote, with school board members Paul Lobby and Amy Lhote dissenting.

Lobby said he opposed the exception as taking a stand against tax increases.

“This board has raised taxes every year since 2012, and the feedback that I'm getting from taxpayers is that taxes are too high,” Lobby said.

Officials are cautious to forecast increases in state and federal funding. Last year, the district received $4.8 million in federal funding, which Zenone said he hopes will at least hold steady.

Armstrong School District expects to receive a small increase in its basic education funding from the state.

Superintendent Stan Chapp said the flat-funded state budget will not help address all of the district's needs and does not take any of the burden from local taxpayers.

Gov. Tom Corbett's $71.8 billion 2014-15 budget includes $28.5 million allotment for the district. It reflects an increase of $44,829.

“When you hear the governor say there's more money being put toward education, there is, but it doesn't help the local tax effort because of the way it's been structured,” Chapp said.

The board plans to pass a final budget by June 30.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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.