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Mount Lebanon schools budget hikes taxes by 10 percent

| Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Mt. Lebanon School Board voted last night to approve a $79.4 million budget for 2010-11 that will raise property taxes 10 percent.

"We're asking our taxpayers to tighten their belts, and we are not tightening ours," said Director James M. Fraasch who, along with Faith Ann Stipanovich, voted against the budget.

Board President Edward Kubit, who supported the budget, was absent.

"Not one person sitting at the table does not realize the significance of this budget," said Director Josephine C. Posti. "We have worked hard to see that the impact is such that we can all be proud of this in the end."

The tax rate will increase 2.53 mills to 26.63 mills. This year's budget was $72.8 million.

The increase would help pay for the renovation of the high school, increased pension responsibilities and costs related to a new teachers' contract. The district expects to spend more than $15,000 per student next school year, up nearly $1,400 from this year.

The 45 residents who attended the meeting appeared to be equally divided.

"We're headed down the wrong path, and I will probably have to move," said Carol Orlansky. "A lot of people moved here for the education. The building doesn't mean a thing. It's the quality of the education."

But Rob Papke said the building renovations are important. "It will make the building ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. It will address deficiencies in building security, and it will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified."

The school board in January voted to cap the cost of the renovations at $113.3 million, precluding the district from asking voters to approve it. Still, the project will be the most expensive in the district's history, although some board members have said they will ensure the work comes in well below that figure.

The renovations, the subject of much controversy, could push the budget to $102 million in 2014-15, according to the district.

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