Freeport Area OKs proposed tax hike of about 3%, final vote in June
By a one-vote margin, Freeport Area School Board approved a proposed 2019-2020 budget raising taxes to the state-mandated limit.
The result would be a 3% or $62 annual increase in real estate taxes on an Armstrong County property with a median assessed value of $32,465. In Butler County, taxes on a property with the median assessment of $21,200 would increase by 2.6% or an $82 annual tax increase.
Voting to approve the $33.5 million budget Wednesday were board members Michael Huth, Dan Lucovich, Barbara Toy-Gaydos, Melanie Bollinger and Frank Borrelli. Those casting no votes were John Haven, Rich Hill, Christine Davies and Frank Prazenica.
However, the board’s action may not be the last word on next school year’s spending plan.
Officials said changes could happen by the board’s next voting meeting June 19, when more data is available such as the tax collection figures for May and the district’s overall real estate assessment figures, which will be known in early June.
The final budget must be approved and submitted to the state by June 30.
“We know adjustments have to be made to the final budget, and we know there will be changes,” said Superintendent Ian Magness.
Information on one such adjustment came Wednesday, according to Business Manager Ryan Manzer. He said proposals on rates for school district employees’ health care insurance came back and appear to be more favorable than expected.
The administration’s perspective on the need to raise taxes, however, remained unchanged.
“Our recommendation, the administration’s recommendation, will remain the same: an increase to the index,” Magness said.
He was referring to the limit the district can raise taxes under Act 1, the tax reform act, through an inflation-based index calculated by the state.
During his budget presentation last week, Manzer warned not raising taxes would erode into the district’s fund balance. Under the measure approved Wednesday, the fund balance will be $3.2 million.
Aspects of the proposed final 2019-2020 budget expenditures include:
- A $465,000 increase in salaries;
- An increase of $268,000 in employees pension costs;
- $281,000 in additional tuition payments to charter and cyber schools;
- Security improvements cost increase of $60,000.
Cost reductions in the budget include:
- $343,000 removed from capital projects
- A decline in debt service payments of $178,000
Information on the budget is available on the district’s website at: https://www.freeport.k12.pa.us/Content2/BusinessOffice.