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Derry Area budget could include 3.45-mill tax hike

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Derry Area school directors are considering adoption of a preliminary 2013-14 district budget on Feb. 7 that could involve a property tax increase of as much as 3.45 mills.

Joe Koluder, the school district's administrative assistant for business affairs, reviewed early projections for 2013-14 revenue and expenditures Thursday during a special meeting and work session of the school board.

Adoption of a preliminary spending plan will allow the district to seek exceptions to a state-calculated index that otherwise would limit Derry Area to a 1.78-mill tax hike in the coming school year.

If state officials grant the district exceptions based on costs for special education and retirement benefits, Derry Area should gain the ability to raise property taxes by an additional 1.67 mills, Koluder said.

He pointed out that the board has a long way to go before adopting a final budget in June. “A lot will change between now and then. We had to make a lot of assumptions,” he said, noting that Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to release his state budget proposal.

The preliminary budget figures presented by Koluder include proposed expenditures of $33.2 million and revenue of about $31.25 million. To balance the budget, he suggested, the district might need to use nearly $2 million of its fund balance, which would be reduced to about $3 million.

Also next week, the school board will consider transferring $960,000 from the district general fund to its capital projects fund — to pay for a series of upgrades the district is undertaking to make its school facilities more energy-efficient.

Replacement of lighting has begun at the high school, resulting in a change the board approved Thursday in its contract with Schneider Electric.

Schneider representative Dave Cramer said an “anomaly” occurred when it was discovered that existing light bulbs were drawing less power than had been expected. That meant switching to new, more efficient 28-watt bulbs would not result in quite as much of an energy savings as the contractor had projected.

The school board agreed with Schneider's plan to make up the energy savings by using 25-watt bulbs instead of the 28-watt version. Cramer said his company would cover the extra costs of switching to the different bulbs, and he noted use of the lower-wattage bulbs should make the district eligible for an additional rebate of $6,600 under a state utility rebate program.

The board heard a proposal from middle school Principal Jeff Metzger and two instructors for coordinating curriculum to ease the transition of district students making the move from fifth grade to sixth grade.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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