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Taxes to rise for Greensburg Salem property owners

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Property owners in the Greensburg Salem School District will pay 1.56 percent more in real estate taxes for the upcoming school year.

School directors this week approved 8-1 a budget of $40.5 million for the 2013-14 school year in two votes on the spending plan during a nearly four-hour meeting.

Newly appointed Director Jeffrey Metrosky was the lone dissenter.

The budget includes a property tax increase of 1.25 mills, bringing the total millage to 81.21. That amounts to about $21 more on a house with an average assessed value of $16,410, business manager Jim Meyer said.

Board members approved the tax levy on a 5-4 vote on Wednesday, a few days before the June 30 state deadline for districts to submit budgets.

Voting yes on the tax rate were directors Frank Gazze, Richard Guerrieri, Ron Mellinger Jr., Richard Payha and Stephen Thomas. Voting no were directors Angela DeMarino-Tooch, Lee Kunkle, Metrosky and Barbara Vernail.

The tax increase combines with a withdrawal from the fund balance to plug the gap between revenues and expenses.

The 1.25-mill tax hike will bring in an additional $286,112, Meyer said. Officials will draw $729,182 from the fund balance, leaving $2.24 million in the account.

The fund balance withdrawal was less than the amount initially proposed. Personnel cuts were made to pare down the figure.

There were no furloughs, Meyer said.

“We're not going to fill every position that we anticipated filling,” Meyer said. “We had 11 retirees, plus some proposed new positions that we're not going to fill.”

Cuts could affect supplemental or full-time vacancies, Meyer said.

Officials are still working out exactly what the cuts will mean, Meyer said, and they will discuss the plan in August.

Earlier in the meeting, the board shot down, with a 5-3 vote, a budget of $40.9 million that would have pulled about $1.16 million from the fund balance, leaving $1.8 million.

In that round of voting, Gazze, Guerrieri and Mellinger supported the plan. Voting no were DeMarino-Tooch, Kunkle, Metrosky, Payha and Vernail. Thomas was absent then.

The 2013-14 budget includes a $1.2 million increase, with about $800,000 in state-mandated pension increases and about $417,000 in labor contracts/salaries, Meyer said.

For next year, Meyer predicts increases in retirement and health insurance.

Kunkle urged consideration of future impacts.

“We're widening the gap, the deficit gap,” Kunkle said. “If you don't have the money, you can't spend it.”

Superintendent Eileen Amato said district leaders must balance managing money with providing a quality education.

“By 2015, we're broke,” DeMarino-Tooch said. “We can't balance our budget.”

Payha suggested eliminating some supplemental positions.

During the marathon meeting, board members met twice behind closed doors to discuss “personnel” and “legal” issues, each time for about an hour.

In other business.

• Board members unanimously selected Mellinger as president, filling the role of Nat Pantalone, who resigned last week.

• Directors unanimously appointed Metrosky to fill the vacant seat. He'll serve until Dec. 1.

In the May primary election, Metrosky secured backing on both the Republican and Democratic tickets. Officials contacted Metrosky about the empty seat, and he was interested, Amato 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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