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Leechburg Area School District projects real estate tax increase but tries to pare budget

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, May 23, 2016, 11:40 p.m.

Leechburg Area School District residents' real estate taxes could increase by about 4 percent in Armstrong County and 6 percent in Westmoreland County for next school year.

The school board gave preliminary approval to a $13.9 million budget that is about $700,000 more than this year's.

Leechburg and Gilpin residents can expect an average annual increase in property taxes of $76, while in West Leechburg, the district's lone Westmoreland County community, residents will pay about $132 more.

The preliminary budget is a “work in progress,” said school board member Anthony Shea and Bill McNamee, the district's interim business manager.

The state Department of Education approved the district's request to raise taxes beyond the state-set limit of 3.5 percent because the money is needed for increased pension and special education costs.

Shea said the preliminary budget is a “placeholder.”

“No one wants to raise taxes,” he said. “We will try to get the budget closer to a zero tax increase. That may not happen, but that is our goal.”

The uptick in the 2016-17 budget mainly is because of increases in contracted salaries and contributions to the Public School Employees' Retirement System, McNamee said.

The proposed budget does not cut any educational or school programs nor furlough any staff or teachers, the business manager said.

Since properties in both counties are under different assessment programs, a tax equalization process is employed to make real estate tax payments roughly equal among all residents.

The budget is available for review at the school district's administration building, the Leechburg Public Library and the district website: www.leechburg.k12.pa.us.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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