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Greensburg Salem directors target 1.75 mill tax hike, with intent to decrease that before budget adoption

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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Greensburg Salem school directors won't increase real estate taxes by more than 1.75 mills with the 2013-14 budget.

During a meeting on Wednesday, directors indicated they didn't want to file for exceptions with the state Education Department to allow a hike in property taxes up to 3.84 mills.

Directors, instead, will vote on a proposed preliminary budget next week with no more than a 1.75-mill increase and then attempt to lower that amount before final adoption in June.

Directors previously discussed filing for the exceptions but said seeking them created an unrealistic impression of their intent.

“Go with the realistic numbers,” Director Ron Mellinger said.

“Don't play games,” added Director Barbara Vernail.

“I have a real problem with almost 4 mills,” Director Lee Kunkle said.

But Director Frank Gazze said he likes the idea of filing for the exceptions, just in case an increase greater than 1.75 mills becomes necessary.

Under Act 1 of 2006, school districts can raise the property tax rate each year by a set percentage, or index, that is determined by several economic indicators.

Greensburg Salem's index for the next budget is 2.2 percent, or a maximum 1.75 mills. The exceptions allow for a greater increase.

At this point, the district's spending plan totals $41.4 million and includes an approximately $1.7 million increase over the 2012-13 budget for salaries and benefits, business manager James Meyer said.

Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget calls for increasing the district's basic education subsidy about $162,000, Meyer said.

In another matter, Superintendent Eileen Amato said she and five other superintendents from across the state met in Harrisburg in late January with Corbett, Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis and others to discuss school safety.

Corbett stressed the need to make schools “warm and welcoming places for children” and not places of fear, Amato said.

Corbett further indicated competitive grants will be made available to school districts to bolster school safety, Amato said.

In another matter, the superintendent questioned directors about filing for Act 80 days with the state. Districts use Act 80 days to train staff, and students don't attend school but get credit for doing so, Amato explained.

Increased training demands placed on districts made the added time necessary, such as for child-abuse reporting, she said.

“We have various training to do, and with our budget the way it is, we can't afford to bring people in over the summer,” Amato said.

The state has approved Act 80 days for other local districts, she added.

Amato suggested applying for two possible Act 80 days — one in the fall and one in the spring.

“The state may not approve it,” she added.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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