Greater Latrobe OKs 1-mill tax hike, $57M budget | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Greater Latrobe OKs 1-mill tax hike, $57M budget

Jeff Himler
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Greater Latrobe School District property owners will pay an additional 1 mill of taxes to help support a 2019-20 district budget of $57 million.

The board this week adopted a final version of the spending plan by a 7-1 vote, with Merle Musick absent.

Board member Michael O’Barto cast the sole vote against the budget, the tax hike to 82.25 mills and re-enactment of the district’s $5 per capita tax.

O’Barto said he considers the per capita tax an antiquated nuisance tax.

“Our residents are being nickeled and dimed to death,” he said.

The tax hike will add about $26 to the annual tax bill for a home in the district with the average assessment of $26,456.

O’Barto objected to “outsourcing of technology” as well as a substantial salary hike for a district administrator he said are included in the budget.

“In essence, when the budget was passed, the raise went through without the public knowing,” he said.

He declined to identify the administrator who received the pay increase but said he objects to the district’s process for approving such salary adjustments without a separate vote.

District Business Administrator Dan Watson and solicitor Ned Nakles said they couldn’t speak to the specific salary increase O’Barto referenced.

Watson said the only occasions when the school board conducts a separate vote for a salary increase are when it hires a new employee, creates a new position or transfers an employee to a new position.

He said a minimum annual pay hike is recommended in accordance with each employee’s contract, but he noted that “the board has the ability, if they believe somebody is going above and beyond and deserved something a little bit higher, to make that recommendation, and that’s what occurred.”

“Anytime there would be an adjustment like that, it’s normally because they’ve taken on additional duties that would be commensurate with that,” Nakles said.

The Tribune-Review has requested a budget addendum that lists employee salaries.

School director Michael Zorch said district administrators have done a good job paring costs, pointing out that the district is holding its tax hike to one mill after having just completed construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School.

“That’s a testament to the financial planning we have in the school district,” he said. “We’re not wasting money on things we don’t need, and we’re providing our kids with a wonderful atmosphere of learning.”

Watson said the district will tap its fund balance for $103,750 to pay for new textbooks and professional development costs, $90,000 for technology costs and equipment purchases and $110,000 for additional kindergarten staff support.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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