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Greensburg-Salem budget calls for maximun tax hike under Act 1

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg Salem administrators on Wednesday presented a proposed 2013-14 budget that calls for a tax increase and the hiring of 17 replacement or new teachers.

The proposal contains a 1.75-mill property tax hike — the most the district is allowed under Act 1 of 2006 — and an emphasis on hiring teachers for kindergarten through third grade.

Residents have expressed concerns to directors about too many students being in elementary school classes this school year.

“It's in the primary where kids are starting, getting their foundation,” Superintendent Eileen Amato said of adding staff.

Some fourth- and fifth-grade classes will continue to have 27 or 28 students in them, she said.

A 1.75-mill hike would cost the average taxpayer, one with an assessed value of 16,410, nearly $30 more annually.

Directors planned to discuss the new hires in a closed-door meeting later on Wednesday.

Administrators are proposing replacing 12 teachers who retired or resigned and adding five additional hires.

Some teaching duties may be divided up or changed among the new hires, Amato said after the meeting.

Directors can change the proposed tax hike up until final budget adoption scheduled for June 26. They plan on voting on the tentative budget on Wednesday.

Business manager James Meyer said he cut an additional $621,000 from the proposed budget since directors discussed the spending plan last month.

Meyer said he doesn't think many more cuts can be made.

“If we cut anymore, you're probably doing a disservice (to the students),” he said.

The current proposal calls for $41.11 million in expenses, $39.87 million in revenues, including almost $400,000 through the proposed tax increase, and use of $1.2 million of the financial reserve to balance the proposed budget.

The proposal leaves about $1.47 million in reserve with the 1.75-mill hike.

Meyer further cautioned directors that he is projecting nearly $1.5 million in increased expenses for 2014-15, much of that hike related to salaries, pension and health insurance costs.

If directors didn't hike property taxes for 2013-14, the district would have to use $1.6 million of the reserve, leaving about $1 million unused, according to the presentation.

A 1.5-mill increase would require nearly $1.3 million of the reserve to be used, leaving $1.4 million in reserve.

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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