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Homer-Center preliminary school budget calls for tax hike of up to nearly 6 mills

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

The Homer-Center school board has approved a preliminary budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that leaves room for a potential “worst-case” tax hike of nearly 6 mills.

With Dan Fabin and Joy Sasala absent at last week's regular meeting, remaining board members gave unanimous assent to a preliminary spending plan that shows an opening fund balance of $2.05 million depleted to $1.78 million by the end of the fiscal year due to $15,166,179 in expenses offset by just $14.9 million in revenue. The budget also includes a real estate tax hike of 5.8644 mills – 2.8544 mills above the district's Act 1 index. The district will apply for a state Department of Education exception, based on employee retirement benefit costs, in order to exceed the index without requiring local voter approval. If the exception is approved, the tax rate would increase from 125.6 mills to 131.4644 mills.

“This is the worst-case scenario,” board president Vicki Smith said of that potential tax hike. “We're hoping it will be less than that when we actually get together and get all of our numbers. .... We have a lot of work yet to do.”

Each mill of real estate tax contributes $44,426 in revenue.

Superintendent Charles Koren said the district will hold a budget workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday to focus on technology and facilities. The session will be open to the public. The school board has until June 30 to adopt a final district budget.

Homer-Center also approved a 2013-14 school calendar that sets Aug. 26 as the first day for student classes and June 4 as the last day.

The district is continuing as a partner with Indiana Area School District in the application process to bring a Challenger Learning Center to Indiana County. The center, which uses simulated space missions to reinforce science and math skills, would be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania at a projected cost of $1.6 million.

The tentative plan for funding the $5,000 application fee entails both districts supplying $1 per student – about $900 for Homer-Center and $2,700 for Indiana, according to Smith.

“We're hoping to get some other districts to come in with us,” Smith added.

In other business, the board:

• Accepted the resignation of Jackie Allison-Treese as assistant girls' track and field coach.

• Approved Liz Heid and Zac Allosio as volunteer assistant track and field coaches for the 2013 season. Both are student teachers at the high school from IUP.

• Accepted the resignation of four-hour cafeteria worker Terri Brown, effective retroactively to Jan. 29.

• Approved Kathy Walker as a four-hour cafeteria worker at 90 percent of the position's hourly starting wage of $9.30 based on the contract between the district and the Homer-Center Educational Support Personnel union. Walker's hiring was effective retroactively to Feb. 11.

• Approved Paulette Kishlock as the Rainbow Room aide at a rate of $7.90 per hour, effective March 5 through May 3.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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