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Uniontown Area School Board rejects tax cut

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

An attempt to cut real estate taxes by a quarter of a mill failed Monday night when the Uniontown Area School Board adopted a $40.36 million budget for 2013-14 that holds the line on taxes.

School board member Bill Gerke made a motion to approve a 14.18 millage rate, which would have reflected a 0.25-mill tax reduction from the district's current rate of 14.43 mills.

School board President Tom George seconded Gerke's motion.

“We're trying to lower the taxes by one-quarter of a mill so that some of the money we saved this past year goes back into the taxpayers' pockets,” George said.

George said the school district has been saving money because it is operating with about 40 fewer employees.

“One-quarter of a mill amounts to about $200,000 out of a $40 million budget,” George said.

School board member Susan Clay said she was opposed to the tax reduction because “we have contracts coming up and litigation to settle.”

Clay said she believes it would be a disservice to the students and taxpayers to make additional cuts to education.

“I think we need to put back into education what we have denied our kids,” Clay said, as teachers, parents and students applauded.

“We're here to educate the students properly,” she added. “Have we replaced all of the classrooms we have cut?”

Superintendent Charles Machesky said some of the classrooms have been replaced, but the physical education, music and art programs have not been fully restored.

Business Manager Brent Filak warned the school board members that a millage reduction could result in a deficit spending plan if unexpected expenses arose during the year.

Gerke asked the business manager if Uniontown's share at the Fayette County Career & Technical School decreased $200,000 from $1.1 million to $900,000.

Filak confirmed that there had been a 10 percent reduction in vo-tech expenses, which would save the district an estimated $200,000.

“There is an excess in the vo-tech line item,” Filak said.

School board members who voted against the tax decrease included Clay, William Rittenhouse, Vincent Winfrey, Dorothy Grahek, Ken Meadows and Philip Holt.

Gerke and George voted in favor of the tax reduction. School board member Lloyd Williams was absent from the meeting.

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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