Riverview School District property owners could see a hike in real estate taxes as part of next school year’s budget.
District officials said their 2019-20 preliminary spending plan contains no program cuts, but it does have a 2.3 percent tax hike and an estimated $215,000 shortfall.
Board members voted 7-1 Monday night to approve the proposed budget. School Director Alex DiClaudio dissented. David DiPietro, board member and finance committee chairman, was absent.
“I think we need to exercise more fiscal discipline,” DiClaudio said. “I’m concerned that just raising taxes to the maximum is not addressing our long-term structural deficit. I’m hopeful that we can realize some savings.
“We just found out two teachers are retiring. We’re still figuring out lots of other things. I’m hopeful that we can pass a final budget in June that doens’t require a full tax increase.”
Expenditures were listed around $24.81 million and revenues about $24 million, which includes an estimated $320,000 increase in real estate funds due to the tax hike.
Costs include about $600,000 in capital projects, such as building maintenance and safety improvements. Those items are projected to be paid for through the district’s reserve fund, which still leaves a budget deficit.
Superintendent Peggy DiNinno said the projected deficit is largely due to increased special education tuition costs.
“We’re doing our best,” school Director Arlene Loeffler said. “I don’t want a tax increase, and if we’re lucky, we won’t have to do it.”
The district raised taxes for the 2017-18 school year from 22.4462 mills to its current rate of 23.0073 mills. One mill generates about $605,000 in revenue. It was the first tax increase in at least the past five years.
Board members held the line on taxes with this school year’s budget, but furloughed an art teacher, music teacher and elementary teacher.
Riverview Education Association President Mark Capsambelis said he’s concerned about any potential staff cuts due to the budget.
“In the past four years as REA president, I’ve seen first hand how the district cuts have hurt the students,” he said. “From limiting sections of classes to making scheduling difficult to increasing class sizes … I’m hoping that fresh ideas and fresh leadership will benefit the district. I’m also hoping that in the next few weeks … the community will see the benefits of fresh ideas and fresh leadership.”
The board in January adopted a resolution to keep any tax increase within the Act 1 Index, a state formula used to limit real estate tax hikes.
The index limits Riverview’s tax increase to 2.3 percent. A property owner with the average assessed value of $167,000 would pay about $88 more in taxes next year, should the plan be approved.
Board President Maureen McClure said she does not see a way to pass a budget without a tax increase and still provide students the same quality education.
“There will be some taxation,” she said. “The board is not yet in agreement as to what that number should be.”
McClure noted the district approved a new teachers’ contract this school year, and is still in negotiations with its clerical, service, maintenance and paraprofessional staff.
“Riverview School District parents want their children to be well-rounded,” McClure said. “That means having access to not only academics, but to the arts and athletics as well. We think that’s one of the things that makes the district standout.”
She said the board will do all it can to keep the district “safe, small and smart.”
McClure dismissed rumors about coaching positions being made all volunteer and booster groups being called on to cover those stipends.
She also said a $100 pay-for-play fee to participate in district activities has been taken off the table.
A public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. June 10 at Tenth Street Elementary. The board is expected to adopt its final budget during a meeting that starts at 7 p.m. June 17 at Verner Elementary.
The proposed budget is expected to be posted on the district’s website, rsd.k12.pa.us, later this month.