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Jeannette residents face rise in taxes

| Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jeannette school directors unanimously approved a preliminary budget for the 2009-2010 school year that includes a 3.51-mill tax increase.

They pledged Monday to try to bring that figure down or eliminate it, however, depending on the level of state support.

The plan projects expenditures at $17,749,000 and revenues at $17,055,000. The proposed deficit would be covered by using about $694,000 of the district's $1,135,000 fund balance and the 3.51-mill increase. That move would leave a projected fund balance reserve of $441,000 at the end of the next school year.

The millage rate would be hiked from 78.54 to 82.05. A property owner with the average assessment of $12,000 would pay an additional $42. That would raise the annual payment to $716 once the $268 reduction provided by the Taxpayer Relief Act is included.

A roadblock in the district's planning arose when state senators voted 30-20 last week to keep school districts from receiving any portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Stimulus fund, which had been targeted for education. The proposed bill also calls for the elimination of the basic education subsidy school districts receive.

Business Manager Tammy Tuccarello said the district would receive $10,855,000 from state sources but would lose out on more than $600,000 in basic education subsidy and $295,000 in one-time stimulus monies earmarked for education.

"(The school district) would just receive what it received last year," Tuccarello said. "This would be drastic for Jeannette."

The bill still must be voted on by the state House and final approval will be needed by Gov. Ed Rendell.

"The board has been working on this budget and hoped to, knowing the difficulties in this country, and in our own area, not to have to raise taxes," said board member Morrison Lewis Jr. "We're hopeful the house will have more sense and not dip into funds that were intended to be committed to avoid problems with all the school budgets throughout the state."

The proposed budget is available for public inspection at the administration building, with the final budget expected to be voted on when school directors meet June 22.

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