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Greater Latrobe tax hike approved

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Greater Latrobe School District property owners will be paying more in taxes next year.

The 2014-15 budget of $51.2 million was approved by school board members with a 7-0 vote on Tuesday. Directors Eric Hauser and Merle Musick were absent.

The 1-mill tax increase was approved with a 6-1 vote. The average assessed value of a home in the district is $25,861, with 1 mill providing about $335,000 in revenue for the district.

Bill Mohler, who cast the dissenting vote, said although the increase was caused by obligations to the Pennsylvania State Employee Retirement System, taxpayers may perceive that the burden came from the construction of a $9 million athletic and wellness complex.

“I thought imposing a tax increase might send the wrong message at this time,” he said.

Before the budget was approved, board President Susan Mains commended business administrator Dan Watson for his work on the spending plan.

“The district expenses have been going down over the years,” she said. “This levy is a result of the PSERS payments we are looking at in the future and Dan did, I think, a great job planning ahead for that.”

Watson presented the board with figures in May, including the $1.5 million budget increase this year, $1.1 million of which comes from rising retirement benefits costs.

A $300,000 shortfall was expected with no increase in state or federal funding.

Board member Michael Zorch suggested before the vote that the board increase taxes to the maximum amount capped by the state in order to plan ahead as the benefit costs continue to creep upward.

He said quality programs and education provided at Greater Latrobe should not be sacrificed because of that burden.

“I would hate to have us in the future start cutting things that are necessary,” Zorch said.

Under the state's Act 1 index, Greater Latrobe is able to raise taxes 2.7 percent, or 2.08 mills, which could garner up to $696,000 in a year.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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