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Norwin school directors OK budget with tax hike

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County taxpayers in the Norwin School District could pay more in property taxes next school year.

School directors on Monday voted 8-0 to approve a 2013-14 preliminary budget of $61 million, which includes a 0.65-mill real estate tax increase. Director Darlene Ciocca was absent.

Directors are expected to vote on a final draft of the budget on June 19. Until then, it will be on public display online and in the administration building, Norwin Business Manager John Wilson said.

In Westmoreland County, taxpayers could have a 0.65-mill increase, which would amount to about an additional $14 per year, based on the average assessed home value of $22,500, Wilson said. That would bring the total millage there to 69.1 mills, Wilson said.

The tax increase would net about $280,000 for the school district.

A few Norwin taxpayers live in Allegheny County, where county officials reassessed property values this year. Those 21 homeowners will get a 3.7-mill decrease in taxes because their assessed home values increased, and the district must equalize the tax expense in each county, Wilson said.

That would bring the total millage for Norwin taxpayers in Allegheny County to 9.6 mills.

The $61 million spending plan is an increase over last year's $58.9 million budget. Wilson attributes that increase to a hike in retirement contributions, debt service and salaries. Retirement contributions alone, he said, “went up about $1.3 million from last year.”

Officials began the budget process with a $1.75 million deficit, and they are continuing to work to cut the imbalance. As of now, Wilson said, the district expects to use $555,000 from a reserve fund.

“We're still looking at trying to reduce it,” Wilson said. “To balance our budget, we'd have to use about $555,000 of fund balance. And for us, that's about 1.5 mills of tax, and that's a big number.”

Wilson said he hopes for a decrease in workers' compensation payments and for additional revenue from real estate tax appeals and a renegotiated copier machine lease.

“(We're) trying to reduce that as much as we can,” he said. “We don't think we'll be able to get it to zero.”

The positions of three retiring teachers will not be filled, Wilson said.

The district will spend $17,000 to finish buying band uniforms. That amount is part of $200,000 left over from this school year's budget.

School board members previously agreed to buy the uniforms in two phases, with the purchase budgeted in the 2013-14 spending plan.

“Rather than wait until July to make the purchase of the remaining uniforms, if we do it out of this year, May or June ... I won't have to put it in next year's budget,” Wilson said.

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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