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Hempfield tax hike 1.5 mills

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The taxes for Hempfield Area School District property owners will increase for the third consecutive year, but not as much as school directors had planned.

The 2014-15 budget calls for a 1.5-mill tax hike that is down from a previous proposal of 1.9 mills. The school board is expected to adopt a final spending plan on June 23. Each mill generates $595,000 in revenue. The current millage rate is 73.12 mills.

The budget has a $2.7 million deficit that will require the district to dip into its $12 million surplus to balance the budget, said Pam Mondock, acting business manager. Mondock said the district expects to receive more than $84.8 million in revenue, but expenses are pegged at $87.5 million. The district's preliminary budget initially was estimated at $2.4 million. When administrators began planning the budget in February, the deficit was estimated at $1.6 million and has grown as spending has increased.

Despite the deficit, the school board plans to spend more in upcoming years.

The district is implementing a new science curriculum for the high school and middle schools that will cost $156,000. It will be spending nearly $1 million on new technology that needs to be in place by the start of the school year.

Superintendent Barbara Marin said the district will be hiring elementary teachers, adding to the district's psychology staff and will hire four music positions. The district no longer will use psychologists and support staff from the Westmoreland IU because administrators say the IU is too expensive and plans to provide the services within the district.

The district could realize additional revenue when it refinances a bond issue, which could generate between $400,000 and $600,000 in debt savings.

Property taxes generate nearly $55 million in revenue for the district, while state revenue is more than $28 million. Federal funding amounts to $1.4 million.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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