Freeport Area looking at tax hikes for proposed $33.5M budget
Freeport Area school directors will vote Wednesday on a proposed budget that would raise real estate taxes an average of $20 per year in Armstrong County and $80 per year in Butler County.
The $33.5 million budget for the next school year is a 2.4% increase over the current school year’s budget.
If passed, next year’s budget would hike real estate taxes in Freeport and South Buffalo 3% from 62.4 mills to 64.3 mills. That’s an increase of $20 for the average household to $2,036.
In Buffalo Township, Butler County, the current levy of 145.6 mills would jump to 149.4 mills, a 2.6% increase. That would mean the average property owner would pay $80 more for the next school year.
If the proposal fails to garner at least five votes, the school board would look at two options.
One would be a no tax increase budget. The other would require a tax increase beyond the state-recommended increase that would necessitate seeking an exemption from the state.
Business manager Ryan Manzer warned not raising taxes would eat into the district’s fund balance, and property valuations from the counties will be out by early June, meaning the figures could change.
School board President Dan Lucovich said a final vote will be taken June 18. All school districts must pass budgets by June 30.
Manzer said 70% of the budget pays for salaries for the school district’s 250 employees. He cited savings of about $74,000 for not replacing a retired teacher.
Teacher retirements are expected to save the school district about $139,000, since new teachers replacing retired teachers will be on the low end of the pay scale.
Officials said Freeport Area will experience a $465,000 increase in salaries, with veteran teachers moving up on the pay scale. The cost of students attending cyber charter schools, which the district must pay for, will jump by $281,000.
The budget allotment for capital projects will decrease by $343,000 next school year and debt service will be trimmed by $178,000.
No voting took place May 1, but there were several sharp exchanges between school directors concerned about increased costs.
“Things are happening around us that we can’t control,” Manzer said. “Also, we want to pay down current debt faster and pay cash for projects whenever possible.”
Manzer said the proposed budget is on the school district’s website: www.freeport.k12.pa.us.
George Guido is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.