The Panther Valley School Board on Thursday approved a $24,758,462 preliminary budget that calls for property tax rates to increase by 2.04 mills in the Carbon County side of the district, and by 1.67 mills in Coaldale, on the Schuylkill County side.

However, school officials said they would continue to work to cut the increases as much as possible, aiming for zero. State budget figures are expected to be released in early March, giving the district more solid numbers to work with as they craft the 2012-13 spending plan.

Last year, the real estate tax rate was 52.24 mills on the Schuylkill side and 55.69 mills on the Carbon side. That meant the owner of a Coaldale property assessed for taxes at $25,000 paid $1,306 last year.

The owner of a building of equal value on the Carbon County side paid $1,392.25.

Under the preliminary plan, Coaldale taxpayers would face a levy of 53.91 mills, a 3.19 percent increase, and Carbon taxpayers a 57.73 mill rate, a 3.66 percent increase.

That would mean that, if adopted as is, the Coaldale homeowner would pay $1,347.75 in property tax this year on a $25,000 assessment, while Carbon homeowners would pay $1,443.25.

Several factors will influence the budget: The district is negotiating a new teachers contract, heating costs are rising, and district's contribution to the pension fund. The contribution rate, set by the state, has increased steadily over the past four years, with Panther Valley's going from 5.64 percent to 16.93 percent.