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Derry Area votes for higher taxes

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Property taxes are increasing in Derry Area School District, but not as much as expected.

The school board voted 6-0 at a special meeting Thursday to raise property taxes by 1 mill.

The tentative budget proposed a 3-mill increase in late May, but favorable changes and budget revisions helped shave expenses by $177,400.

Property taxes will increase from 74.5 mills to 75.5 for the 2013-14 school year. The average Derry Area resident's property tax bill will increase by roughly $11.83.

“The taxpayers of this district are heard, loud and clear, by this board and by this district,” President David Krinock said. “Mr. (Joseph) Koluder, our business manager, through hours of endless work, and our administrators have worked very hard to cut this budget (increase) to 1 mill. And I'd like to also say that we didn't have to cut any programs to do so.”

Expenditures total slightly more than $32.6 million, up from $31.7 million last year.

The final budget came in with lower costs for insurance, special education and diesel fuel than those estimated in the tentative spending plan.

The budgetary reserve was reduced from $345,000 to $300,000.

Increased revenues from alternate sources were reflected in the final budget.

Earned income and real estate transfer tax revenue projections were adjusted to district trends, adding $157,000.

Koluder said as a result of state law requiring counties to collect earned-income taxes, rather than individual school districts, “we've been collecting those dollars a little bit quicker and a little bit more. I watch that trend all the time and I'm comfortable increasing what I had in the tentative budget up in the final budget, because those are actual collections that are coming in now. At least for us, over this last year our wage tax collections have come back very strong.”

Salaries and benefits make up 61.8 percent of the total expenditures at about $20 million, up from about $19.3 million last year. The district earmarked almost $610,000 for retirement costs this year.

State funding, which Koluder said contributes 54 percent of district revenue, has not been finalized.

If state contributions fall short of the figures projected in Derry Area's budget, money from the budgetary reserve would be used to make up the difference, he said.

“On a $32 million budget, we have near misses all the way through the budget,” Koluder said of anticipating income from various revenue sources.

The board voted unanimously to transfer $250,000 from the general fund to the capital-reserve fund to help replenish funds used for computer purchases, and moved to commit $500,000 of the fund balance to prepare for increases in pension expenditures.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at (724) 459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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