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Southmoreland puts cap on possible tax increase

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Southmoreland School Board unanimously voted that any real estate tax increase imposed for the 2013-2014 school year would not exceed 2.4 percent of the district's current millage rate.

Under the Act 1 Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 school districts must limit tax increases to the level set by an inflation index calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education unless the tax increase is approved by voters in a referendum or the district obtains referendum exceptions from the Department of Education or a Court of Common Pleas.

“It's not saying we're going to raise taxes,” School Director Josie Kaufmann said.

“It just sets a ceiling that we cannot go above,” Superintendent John Molnar added.

The board last week also tabled its vote to help foot the bill for approximately $9.1 million in repair costs at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

The school's roof, electrical and mechanical systems are all original to the building at the technical facility near New Stanton, which opened in 1975. Upgrading the mechanical system is expected to cost more than $4 million, while roof replacement and electrical upgrades are expected to carry a price tag of $4.3 million.

The project, which would involve Chevron Energy Savings Solutions Company, would have to be approved by the school's nine member districts. They are: Southmoreland, Norwin, Belle Vernon, Hempfield, Penn-Trafford, Jeannette, Greensburg Salem, Yough and Mt. Pleasant. Frazier students also attend classes there, but the district is not part of the consortium of districts of CWCTC.

“There were some items that came up at our (Westmoreland County) superintendents' meeting that left us with a number of questions,” Molnar said. “Some of the other districts would like to see some information on the Chevron plan, as well as a plan that was not chosen ... and if there's a less expensive way to go about this. I don't think there's any disagreement that work has to be done, but everybody's looking at the best way to do it.”

The cost to Southmoreland if Frazier is involved in paying would be $52,957 a year for 15 years. If Frazier is not involved, it would be $57,573.68 a year.

The motion is expected to be acted upon at a special meeting on Jan. 31.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ppaterra@tribweb.com or 724-887-6101.

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