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Greensburg Salem School Board mulls another tax increase | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Greensburg Salem School Board mulls another tax increase

Jacob Tierney
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There’s a lot yet to be determined about the Greensburg Salem School District’s 2019-20 budget, but most of the school board agrees on one point:

“I think we’re going to have some sort of tax increase,” board member Nicholas Rullo said.

The board will vote next week on a proposed budget with a 1.5-mill tax increase, which will be subject to change until a final vote in June.

Board members Jeff Metrosky and Robin Savage opposed the increase, saying the district should do more to cut costs and protect taxpayers.

“It’s going to make a difference to (residents),” Savage said. “If they can’t afford it, they are going to leave the district.”

Most board members, however, said a tax increase is necessary to pay for repairs and renovations at district buildings.

“We still have facility problems that we’re not addressing,” board member Charlotte Kemerer said.

The district has a long to-do list of projects, including replacing faulty pipes at Hutchinson Elementary School, replacing the leaky roof at the high school, and replacing broken heating and air conditioning units in several buildings.

The proposed budget would transfer $380,125 to the district’s capital fund, which pays for major construction efforts.

This is enough to pay for some smaller projects, but big-ticket items like the roof replacement and HVAC systems would cost much more, district Business Manager Jim Meyer said.

Savage said the district should curb its construction project wish list.

“Buildings can look crappy and still produce quality students; they’ve been doing it for years,” she said.

Board member Rachel Shaw responded: “But our buildings look crappy — and they are crappy.”

Shaw said she supports the tax increase as a necessary measure to make lasting fixes to dilapidated district buildings, but urged district leaders and residents to lobby Harrisburg for more state funding.

“We need to think long-term,” she said. “We keep putting Band-Aids on things.”

The biggest question looming over the budget discussion is the result of ongoing contract negotiations between the district and its teachers union. The teachers’ contract expires at the end of the school year.

The last contract negotiation was a protracted process that nearly ended in a strike before it was resolved in 2016.

Board member Frank Gazze said it would be inaccurate to present a preliminary budget with no tax increase while negotiations are ongoing.

“It is not fair to come in and show a budget with no tax increase,” he said. “In reality, that’s not going to happen.”

Metrosky said the district needs to do more to control its costs. Other local districts that are about the same size have smaller budgets, he said.

“How can they do it when we can’t?” he asked.

District property taxes have gone up in 16 of the last 18 years. Last year was the first without a tax increase since 2009.

With a 1.5-mill tax increase, the proposed $46.6 million budget would be about $170,000 in the red. The district has an estimated $3.8 million in its reserves.

The increase would cost the average district property owner an extra $25.51 a year.

Board president Ron Mellinger said a tax increase is worth it to preserve district programs.

“If my taxes have to go up, so be it,” he said.

The district will post details of its proposed budget on greensburgsalem.org.

The board will vote on the preliminary budget Wednesday, with a final budget vote June 19.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected]ibweb.com or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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