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Plum/Oakmont

Plum school taxes to rise by 4.4 percent

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 10:36 p.m.
Plum Senior High School.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Plum Senior High School.

Plum School District property owners will pay 4.4 percent more in real estate taxes next school year, and the district will borrow more money to balance its budget.

Board members voted 6-3 on June 20 to approve their final 2017-18 budget of about $66 million that calls for a property tax hike of 0.866-mill.

Voting for the budget were Board President Kevin Dowdell, Vice President Michelle Stepnick and fellow school directors Jim Rogers, Reginald Hickman, Michele Gallagher and Rich Zucco.

Sue Caldwell, Steve Schlauch and Vicky Roessler dissented.

The current tax rate is 19.377 mills, and the increase sets next year's millage at 20.243 mills.

One mill generates about $1.5 million of revenue for the district.

A property owner with the median home value of $110,000 will pay $105 more in taxes.

The minority directors all said not enough was done to curtail expenses and adjust staffing to declining enrollment.

The budget includes no program or staffing cuts.

“I am disappointed in the majority of the board and (Superintendent Tim) Glasspool and administration's lack of commitment to make cuts,” Schlauch said. “This budget's garbage.”

Schlauch accused Glasspool of not looking into reducing expenses. Schlauch did not expand on what his suggestions were.

Glasspool said he has never voted on any budgets during his six years on the job, and didn't suggest borrowing money to balance the budget.

“I value your opinion,” he told Schlauch. “I don't think the personal attacks are necessary.”

Caldwell said some classes only have three students enrolled.

“I am unsure how students can learn in a diverse environment and have robust discussions in a class of three,” Caldwell said.

Dowdell said the board has reduced staffing the past eight years, and would have been in better financial shape had it raised taxes three years ago like he suggested.

Other board members said no one likes raising taxes and borrowing money, but said both moves were necessary.

“What we got is what we got — and what we have is a mess,” Hickman said.

The district is projected to start next school year with a $4.1 million deficit

The budget uses borrowed money in order to balance the $66 million budget.

The board voted in the same fashion last month to pursue a 12-year, $5.6 million bond to increase revenue over the next three years.

District Business Manager John Zahorchak reported at the time about $5 million will be used toward district expenses, and the rest will go to fees and reimbursements from the state.

The plan is to use $1.8 million in the 2017-18 budget, $3 million in 2018-19 and the rest in 2019-20.

The district also took out a $5 million loan last year to help pay for pension obligations and transportation expenses.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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