United School Board OKs 2.4-mill tax hike
By Jeff Himler
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013, 6:39 p.m.
United School Board at a special Monday meeting adopted a final 2013-14 fiscal year budget that includes $19.98 million in expenditures and a property tax increase of 2.4 mills.
With total revenues of about $18.17 million, the district will dip into its fund balance for $1.8 million in order to close the funding gap.
The tax hike has been trimmed significantly from the 8-mill increase that was proposed in May as part of a tentative version of the budget.
Planned expenditures were reduced by $396,406 from the figure included in the tentative budget.
School board President Don Davis praised the cost-conscious planning of school principals, who “kept their budgets the same or actually a little bit lower” while costs have increased for special education, cyber and charter school expenditures, and contributions toward employee health care and pension benefits.
“Through the hard work of Tammy (Tuccarello), our business manager, we found some money from a bond issue that we needed to spend,” Davis added. “It was an older bond issue.”
United will use the bond proceeds to pay for some technology upgrades rather than including them in the regular budget.
Superintendent Barbara Parkins said a few positions are being eliminated through attrition, with the retirement of three faculty members at the elementary school. She noted the school will continue to have an art instructor and a librarian.
Also on Monday, the school board approved elimination of a vacant full-time high school custodial position.
The 2.4-mill hike will increase United's real estate tax to 98.75 mills. According to Davis, that will translate into an increase of $29.52 in the annual tax bill of the average district homeowner.
Each taxpayer with an approved homestead or farmstead exclusion will see a reduction of approximately $189.39 in their property taxes.
“In comparison to 10 surrounding school districts, United's real estate tax remains the eighth lowest based on data from the previous school year,” Davis stated. “This is a significant achievement in maintaining the best educational value for our students while remaining sensitive to the financial situation of our taxpayers.”
According to Davis, this is the second of six years during which the United board has planned to increase real estate millage by at least 1.7 mills each year to meet payments on bonds that helped finance renovations at the elementary school. District officials have calculated that a final 1.4-mill hike in the seventh year should complete United's financial contributions toward the project.
Replacement of the gymnasium floor represents the final phase of the elementary renovations, which are nearly complete. Davis said the upgrades to the school will “provide current and future students with an appropriate learning environment.”
The school board approved these additional taxes that will remain at current levels: per capita taxes totaling $10; a local services tax of $5; a wage tax of .85 percent; and a real estate transfer tax of .5 percent. For the real estate and per capita taxes, the board approved a discount rate of 2 percent, if paid early, and a penalty rate of 10 percent, if paid late.
The 2013-14 budget will be the last Tuccarello works on at United as the school board accepted her resignation, with regret, for personal reasons. She has served at United for 2 1/2 years as the director of finance and board secretary and will leave effective Aug. 16.
The board voted to advertise for applicants to fill the pending vacancy and is expected to address the matter on July 23, when it will hold a 6 p.m. committee meeting followed immediately by a special board meeting in the high school library.
The school board approved creating supplemental positions for a media coordinator and media production coordinator, who will oversee issuance of the district's newsletter, each at a salary of $740.
Davis explained the district had cut the positions for budgetary reasons but opted to restore them. He said the board decided it was important to continue the newsletter as an informational resource for parents. It will continue in both online and print versions.
The board also accepted the resignation of David Small as an assistant football coach. Approved as volunteer football coaches were school director Bob Lichtenfels, who is a former United player, along with Zachary Waddell, Brett Marabito and Josh Hammack.
Other approved volunteers: Beth Michaels and Valerie Regan, with the junior high cheerleading program; and Dorene Schillinger and Julie Woodring, at the elementary school.
United agreed to continue purchasing the support services of technology technician Boyd Bracken from the ARIN Intermediate Unit, at a cost of $64,680 for the 2013-14 school year.
The district also voted to participate in ARIN's Automated External Defibrillator Replacement Consortium, with four AED units to be replaced at a cost of $740.
United agreed to purchase a commercial insurance policy package — excluding workers' compensation insurance — issued by Ohio Casualty through the local R. E. Walbeck Agency, at a cost of $49,604 for 2013-14.
The school board adopted 19 revisions to various board policies. Parkins noted a policy regarding service animals in schools has added guidelines to consider requests for bringing miniature horses to district facilities.
United agreed to play host to the Indiana County Chorus Festival, on Nov. 21, and to the Indiana County Music Educators Association County Band Festival, on Jan. 24.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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