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Greensburg Salem examines 2-mill real estate tax hike

| Friday, May 16, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Ron Mellinger Jr., Greensburg Salem school board candidate

Greensburg Salem School District administrators have proposed a 2-mill hike in real estate taxes to balance the 2014-15 budget and keep more of the district's financial reserve.

Business manager James Meyer told school directors on Wednesday, when presenting the proposed budget, that he trimmed $250,000 from the spending plan since revealing it last month. Further cuts will be up to directors, Meyer said.

“If you cut now, you're cutting programs,” he added.

An average homeowner whose property is assessed at $16,410 would pay $32.82 more in annual real estate taxes to the district, according to the presentation.

Meyer said flat state basic education subsidy payments during the last few years and escalating pension costs have hurt Greensburg Salem and other districts across the state.

President Ron Mellinger said he and other directors don't want to raise taxes that much and will look to lower the amount of the increase before budget adoption in June.

“Something has to be done, and we have a month,” Mellinger said. “Jim (Meyer) did his due diligence. Now it's up to us.”

On Thursday, Mellinger added he and other directors are concerned about the 2015-16 budget because new staff contracts begin then and pension costs keep rising.

“We're in survival mode this year,” he said. “Obviously, we're going to have to raise taxes a little. Next year, the floodgates are open.”

Directors discussed some possible staffing changes during a closed-door meeting that followed Wednesday's meeting.

“Nothing's been settled with the personnel issues,” Mellinger said on Thursday.

The district has lost or not filled about 30 teaching positions since 2010, Superintendent Eileen Amato told directors. At the same time, enrollment dropped about 200 students.

Within the current $42.27 million spending plan, salaries are up nearly $343,000, and pension contributions have increased by nearly $780,500, a combined $1.1 million.

Revenues, without any tax increase, are projected at $40.48 million.

District officials estimate raising nearly $457,000 in additional revenue with the 2-mill increase, which is slightly less than the 2.2-mill hike they are allowed to impose under Act 1 of 2005.

With a 2-mill increase, $1.33 million from the reserve would be needed to balance the budget, leaving an estimated $1.56 million in reserve June 30, 2015, according to the presentation.

If directors impose no tax hike, they would need $1.79 million of the reserve to balance the budget. That leaves about $1.1 million in reserve, according to the presentation.

The district has consistently had more in reserve at the end of each fiscal year than was projected a year earlier at budget adoption time.

Last year, directors raised millage 1.25 mills to 81.21 mills.

Directors plan to adopt a preliminary budget on Wednesday and to adopt the final budget during a June 18 meeting.

Meyer noted the budget can be changed between the preliminary and final adoption.

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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