Kiski Area School District real estate tax will remain same for next school year |
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Kiski Area School District’s proposed $62.4 million budget for next school year includes no increase in property taxes.

The school district, however, would use $4.2 million in reserves to fill an anticipated budgetary shortfall.

Officials unveiled the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year this month. The school board is expected to vote on the preliminary budget Monday. A final budget vote would take place June 19, allowing the public 30 days to review the preliminary budget before the final budget is passed.

The proposed budget projects $58.1 million in revenues, with the rest of money coming from the district’s fund balance to close the budget gap.

The real estate tax rate for Westmoreland County property owners would remain 90.27 mills. The rate for those in Parks Township, Armstrong County, would be 46.22 mills, up from 46.17 mills under the state’s equalization process since properties are assessed at different rates for each county, but they would not be paying more in taxes.

The homestead exclusion would result in a $142.31 tax bill reduction for both counties. Business Manager Peggy Gillespie said residents who have not applied for the reduction should contact her office.

The final numbers aren’t in for the current school year’s budget, but Kiski Area could be spending less than it budgeted. That could help restore some of the fund balance needed for next school year’s spending program.

“We budget at the worst-case scenario,” Gillespie said.

The biggest portion of the proposed budget is $37.4 million for classroom instruction. Nine teachers will be at the top step of the salary level, while 13 more are approaching the top step, according to officials.

State retirement money would take an $8.4 million bite out of the budget.

School directors could seek reductions in district spending. A music teacher’s retirement could save $80,000 if no replacement is hired.

“That is an option, not a recommendation,” Superintendent Timothy Scott said.

Nineteen staff positions and three support positions have been eliminated in the past three years at a savings of $1.3 million.

The school board might be contemplating a bond refinancing as soon as October, which could bring some financial relief.

Also, the district’s teachers contract is up next year and it’s hard to predict how that might impact the budget for the 2020-21 school year.

“I get nervous about what next year looks like,” board member Jessica Johns said.

“It never gets any easier,” board member Tamra Smail said. “The next couple of years won’t be any better.”

Resident Jim Johnson thanked Gillespie for her diligence and told the school board that “the trend has to stop spending $4 million more than we’re taking in. We really have to take a look at expenditures.”

Under the proposed budget, the fund balance would be $2.6 million after next school year.

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