No program or staffing cuts, slight tax increase in Riverview School District budget |
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Michael DiVittorio

Oakmont and Verona property owners will pay a little more in real estate taxes next year to help keep Riverview School District programs status quo.

Board members voted 5-3 Monday night to adopt their 2019-20 budget and tax ordinance.

Next school year’s millage rate was set at 23.2719 mills, a jump of 0.2646-mill or about 1.16 percent.

A property owner with the average assessed value of $167,000 would pay about $49 more in taxes next year.

District Business Manager Tammy Good said the rate hike is projected to net about $160,000 in additional revenue for Riverview.

Revenues were projected around $23.8 million and expenses at $24.4 million, which includes a $600,000 transfer to the capital reserve fund for building and maintenance projects. Budget documents also indicate $130,000 will be pulled from budgetary reserve, and an administrative position will be lost through attrition.

Those in favor of the spending plan were President Maureen McClure and school directors Ernest Tillman, Jeanine Hurt-Robinson, Tara Schaaf and Freda Aughenbaugh. David DiPietro, Alex DiClaudio and Arlene Loeffler dissented. Vice President Lisa Ashbaugh was absent.

Superintendent Peggy DiNinno said there are no furloughs or staffing cuts as a result of the budget, which was a key factor in McClure’s vote.

“It’s a no furlough budget,” McClure said. “Small districts are very expensive. We’re all going to have to think long and hard about what we can do to keep our small district running. What we were trying to do this year was keep things even. Next year, costs will be going up and so we’re going to have to start early thinking about how we’re going to manage increases because they’re coming faster. Pensions are the big one, and that’s a state problem.”

McClure said she went door to door and talked with district residents about the budget, and the board vote reflects their responses.

“We have parents who want the best for their children,” she said. “They see a lot of need and are happy to pay taxes. On the other hand, we have a median age of 47 and have a lot of older people who want to stay in their homes who are supportive of the district and don’t have the money to continue (to pay for everything). As representatives of the district, you have to be able to balance this and be responsible to everybody.”

DiPietro, the board’s finance committee chairman, said he would have liked to see more spending cuts.

“In a $23-plus million budget, we should be able to find areas of efficiencies that equate the amount we’re asking individual taxpayers to pay,” DiPietro said. “I believe there is enough to be found, but we have not gone down that path.”

Officials were looking at an estimated $215,000 shortfall in the earlier stages of the budgeting process.

DiClaudio said the district needs to do more to address rising pension costs and think about what it can and should afford.

“I think we need to signal to the community that we have to do a lot more to address the structural deficit,” he said. “There’s not enough community support, at least in terms of who shows up at meetings, to support really taking care of this the way we need to. The tax revenue increases without a tax increase between 3 and 3.5 percent a year. Our expenses are increasing at double that rate. There’s no tax increase we can possibly do to get us out of that. The only way we can really take a serious look at that is having a hard discussion about how many staff we can afford to have in the district.”

No one in the audience spoke about the budget prior to its approval.

Good said the final budget will be submitted to the state Department of Education, and available at the district’s administration office and posted online by July 1.

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