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Mt. Pleasant Area to avoid tax increase

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Taxes in the Mt. Pleasant Area School District will not go above the Act 1 index during the 2013-14 budget process.

The administration had placed a motion on the agenda this week to adopt a tentative budget and seek exceptions to the index, which would allow the district to increase taxes more than the 2.3 percent allotted if necessary.

“You never know what kind of funding cuts we might experience with the state, and this is a way to prepare for that if something were to happen,” Superintendent Terry Struble said.

But Director David Brooks felt that was not the right move for the district to make at this time.

“This sends the wrong message to the public, even hinting to the fact that we would need to raise taxes above the index,” he said. “I encourage my fellow board members to vote no. I feel confident we can balance a budget without having to take this step.”

The motion to seek exceptions failed, 7 to 2, with directors Annette Wisneski and Robert Gumbita voting in favor.

Another motion was made to pass a resolution that would have the district stay within the Act 1 index and not allow taxes to be raised any more than 1.83 mills.

That motion passed. Therefore, the district doesn't need to have a preliminary budget done by May 31. A final budget would need adopted by June 30

In other business, two representatives from Municipal Revenue Services talked to the board about what it would mean if they were to buy the district's delinquent taxes.

Brooks had asked the administration to set up the presentation to see whether the move would bring revenue to the district.

Jim Geronimo, a revenue specialist with Municipal Services Revenue, said that if the district were to go forward with a tax lien closing within 45 to 60 days, they would net about $1.2 million, including their regular delinquent tax collection of slightly more than $300,000. He added that the district would then turn over about $1 million next year and about 10 percent of that in additional years.

“Let's say the oldest delinquent tax is from 1997,” Geronimo said. “The face value of that pales in comparison to the interest and penalties, which both would still get funneled back to you.”

His partner, Jeff Spaulding, said that the windfall obviously comes in the first year, but after that it's about holding the budget steady.

No action was taken on the issue.

In other business, directors approved:

• Hiring Brian Ruff to replace building and grounds supervisor Barry Bitner, who is retiring.

• Hiring Brian Hare as a classified custodian.

• George Gula as assistant softball coach; Andy Chopp, as junior varsity softball coach; Brian Zelmore, Mike Gaffney and Allison Homulka, as volunteers for softball; and Samantha Deter as a volunteer for girls basketball.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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