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Hampton/Shaler

Shaler Area School Board passes final budget with tax increase

| Monday, June 26, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

The Shaler Area School Board has passed its 2017-18 budget with a 3.2 percent property tax increase.

The $84 million budget contains a 0.72-mill increase, raising the property levy from 22.56 mills to 23.28 mills. The increase will generate approximately $1.4 million in additional revenue.

A homeowner with an assessed property value of $100,000 will pay an additional $72.19 annually.

The budget passed 7-1 with school directors Steve Romac dissenting and Jason Machajewski absent.

During a May board meeting, business affairs director Sherri Ludwig said nearly 14 percent of the budget goes to its state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System. The increase was $970,000, bringing the total contribution to $11.6 million and a net payment of $5.5 million.

Another factor in the increase, Ludwig said, is higher debt service.

A $4.1 million increase to the debt service reflects the 2016-17 restructuring, which the district website states saved the district $4 million that school year. The debt service includes construction expenses for Titan Stadium and the new Scott Avenue primary school.

“I've been here 30 years and you know, paid good taxes every year, so I hope there is a lot of deliberation and discussion that goes in when a budget increase has to occur,” said Paul Hill, a resident who voiced his concern at the June meeting. “And it's not just a matter of saying, let's just raise the millage on our residents.”

Board vice president James Tunstall said much effort went into reducing expenses.

“We didn't look at the budget and say, ‘We need this much money and here's how we're going to get it.' We worked hard with an awful lot of cuts throughout that budget just to get to the point that we did,” Tunstall said.

Superintendent Sean Aiken said administrators reviewed expenditures “across the board,” including staffing, athletics and activities.

“We want to maintain academic excellence for our 4,300 students that we have, so we don't want to give them bare-boned academic opportunities,” Aiken said. “We want to still give them a ... thriving opportunity to learn and grow ... it's kind of this balancing act.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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