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District to cap tax hike at 1.67 mills

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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The Greater Latrobe School Board this week said it will not raise real estate taxes more than 1.67 mills for the 2013-2014 school year, the highest possible increase as determined under a state Department of Education formula.

The school board Tuesday said it would adopt a resolution at its Jan. 22 meeting to hold any tax increase to 1.67 mills, despite projected increases of $1.96 million in expenditures, according to a preliminary budget that is “conservative,” said Daniel Watson, school district business manager. A 1.67-mill tax hike would generate only $556,000 in revenue.

“We believe we can do it,” Watson said.

The school district is operating with a property tax levy of 76.0 mills for its $48.9 million budget. The board raised taxes by 1.5 mills last June.

While the deadline for adopting that resolution is Jan. 31, under provisions of state Act 1, the district still has several months to evaluate its expenditures, Watson said.

If the board does not adopt the resolution capping the tax hike, it must adopt a preliminary budget by Feb. 20, Watson said. The district might be required to have any tax hike above 1.67 mills approved by the voters.

About $1.1 million of the increase in expenses is tied to retirement costs, of which the state reimburses the district for 50 percent of the total, Watson said.

Watson said he expects that some teachers will retire at the end of the school year, taking advantage of an early-retirement incentive.

For purposes of the budget projection, Watson estimated that health care costs will rise by about 10 percent. Watson said, however, that the insurance increases will be less than 10 percent.

State and federal funding is projected to remain flat for the 2013-2014 school year and local revenues expected to rise by only $44,000, Watson said.

The district has enacted a series of cost-cutting measures that has resulted in annual savings of about $2.25 million.

In other business, construction of the $9.4 million multipurpose athletic complex is proceeding on schedule, with work focusing on site preparation, including tree removal and site grading for the fields and the field house, said Kurt Thomas, the school district's construction manager on the project.

Thomas told the board that activity at the site has increased the past two weeks.

A contractor is expected to meet with West Penn Power Co. to discuss removing trees so that the utility can move an electrical line that now runs through the project, said Hank Tkacik, the district's architect on the project. Moving the utility lines that cut through the work site may cost more than originally anticipated, Tkacik said.

Earthmoving work will begin soon on the site that will hold the two-story field house, Tkacik said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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