Highlands budget proposal raises property tax to state limit | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Highlands budget proposal raises property tax to state limit

Brian C. Rittmeyer
1153810_web1_web-highlandssign

A property tax increase up to the state limit is possible in Highlands School District for the upcoming school year.

But even with a 3.3% increase, the district would still need to spend about $1.7 million from its reserves to cover all of its spending, according to a presentation Monday by district Business Manager Lori Byron.

The school board is expected to vote on the $46.2 million proposed final budget on May 20. A final vote would come in June.

The figures could, and probably will, change in that time, which may taper back the tax increase, Byron said.

Outstanding and unknown factors she cited included an insurance renewal; contract negotiations with cafeteria and custodial/maintenance employees; the district’s new transportation contract with ABC Transit, which the board awarded Monday night; and repairs to the clock tower at Highlands Elementary School in Tarentum.

A 3.3% tax increase comes out to 0.81 mills, which would generate about $695,000 in additional revenue for the district at its estimated 88% collection rate, Byron said.

It would increase Highlands’ property tax rate from 24.63 mills to 25.44 mills. For a house assessed at $100,000, that would add $81 to the annual property tax bill.

Byron said the district used a zero-based budget process this year, in which budget requests were made starting from nothing instead of using this year’s budget as a starting point.

Base salaries and wages will increase by about 3.6% overall, Byron said. Health insurance is going up 1.9%. The district’s retirement contribution is increasing from 33.43% to 34.29%.

The budget includes $270,000 for a new science curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade. Educators are recommending buying “Smithsonian Science for the Classroom” for elementary grades, K-4, and “Elevate” from Pearson for the middle school grades, 5-8.

Factored into the district’s income is increased collection of delinquent real estate taxes, now being collected by the law firm of Weiss Burkardt Kramer. Byron said the district’s 2018-19 collections through March have exceeded the budgeted amount by about $196,000. The 2019-20 budget anticipates that to continue.

The firm is paid 10% of the money it collects, Byron said.

The district also is collecting more in interest due to higher interest rates, Byron said. The earned interest income through March has exceeded the budgeted amount by almost $90,000, and the proposed budget anticipates additional interest earnings.

State funding for basic and special education is increasing “modestly,” while federal funding is flat, Byron said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.