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No real estate tax increases in Mt. Pleasant school district

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

After several failed attempts to pass a balanced 2013-14 budget, a majority of Mt. Pleasant Area School Board members finally came together to pass the budget with no tax increase.

This week, district Superintendent Terry Struble recommended a 1.5-mill increase to help offset the approximate $770,000 proposed deficit.

That millage increase would bring approximately $240,000 in revenue to the district and would cost the average taxpayer about $23.25 more a year.

He then proposed the remaining deficit be made up with money from the fund balance, which would leave the fund balance at or just below $1 million.

Struble said staying at the $1 million mark in the fund balance was extremely important so the district would have enough money to meet bills before property taxes begin to come in next fall.

No board member introduced a motion to accept Struble's 1.5-mill increase recommendation.

Director Dave Brooks said he would never vote in favor of a 1.5-mill increase and suggested a final budget that would include a half-mill increase as well as cutting more than $60,000 in anticipated expenses from the vo-tech line item, nearly $42,000 of projected deficit from the cafeteria fund and the budgeted $18,500 for the payment of department chairmen on the secondary level.

Along with those cuts, Brooks also proposed as part of his motion to include a 2 percent increase in state funding, amounting to just over $171,000, even though the state budget has not yet been passed.

With these cuts, the addition in revenue from state funding and the half-mill increase, Brooks said the district would need just over $395,000 of its approximate $1.5 million fund balance to balance the budget.

After a second was given, the motion failed with Directors George Hare, Tara Leeder, Annette Wisnesky and Rick Albright voting against it and Directors Ed Malone, Denver Hudec, Robert Gumbita and Brooks voting in favor of it.

With Director James McElfresh absent from the meeting, the motion failed with the tied vote.

After several more variations and failed motions, directors agreed to take a recess before coming back to the table to try and come up with a solution since a budget needs to be passed by June 30.

Once the meeting was back in session, Struble suggested the board consider a budget with a zero-mill increase that would remove just over $60,000 in vo-tech money, bringing the deficit down to about $709,000 and then add $200,000 in anticipated additional revenue from the state.

That would bring the deficit down to about $509,000, which could be offset with money from the fund balance. That would then leave the fund balance around the necessary $1 million mark.

The proposed cafeteria deficit of about $42,000 would remain in the budget as well as the already budgeted $18,500 for department chairmen on the secondary level.

The motion passed with Malone, Albright, Gumbita, Hare, Hudec and Leeder voting in favor and Wisnesky and Brooks voting against.

After that motion was passed, a motion was added to the agenda to approve the department chairmen within the district and set their salaries.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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