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Norwin board reverses on tax increase

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Norwin school board members will vote next week on a revised 2013-14 preliminary budget that would stay within the state-imposed limit on real estate taxes, an about-face from a vote last month.

In January, the board approved a proposed preliminary budget of $62 million that included a 5.25-mill tax increase.

District business manager John Wilson attributes the change to several items, including funding from the governor's budget and potential savings in personnel and other costs.

Under state law, school districts are given limits on how much they can hike taxes. Norwin's state-imposed limit for a tax increase for next school year is 1.5 mills, which would raise $550,000 in the district.

Districts may request an exception from the state limit but must apply in January, before the governor's budget announcement, Wilson said during a meeting Monday.

Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal would increase Norwin's basic education subsidy by $273,000. That amount could couple with a 1.5-mill tax increase and savings of $904,500 in personnel costs, $150,000 in health insurance costs and $300,000 in pension costs.

Those amounts would help plug a $2 million gap in the district's budget.

Nothing has been finalized, Wilson said, and the goal is to have no furloughs.

Wilson also listed nine other areas to review for possible savings. Those include online textbooks, renegotiating a copier lease and reviewing service providers for occupational and physical therapy.

The governor's budget, Wilson cautioned, is not final until approved by the Legislature.

“There (are) so many factors that come into play between now and the final budget. We work on it weekly, if not daily,” Superintendent William Kerr said. “I think it's reassuring the fact that the governor has proposed an increase.”

Board member Raymond Kocak said he still wants to apply for the exception to the state's 1.5-mill index “in case we need it,” he said.

The school board must approve a final budget in June.

Last year, Norwin officials had to cut $2.2 million from the budget and $2.8 million the year before, Kerr said.

The district this school year is operating on a $58.9 million budget. The school board voted in June 2012 to raise taxes 1.45 mills, helping to plug a budget gap. Despite the increase, the district's tax rate is the lowest in Westmoreland County.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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