Homeowners in the Panther Valley School District were spared a property tax increase this year, but the relief may be short-lived.

The school board on Thursday adopted a $24.5 million budget that calls for no tax increase on the Carbon County side of the district, and a 0.02 mill increase in Coaldale, on the Schuylkill County side.

That keeps the tax rate at 55.690 mills on the Carbon County side, and increases it a smidgen, to 52.26 mills, in Coaldale.

That means the owner of a property assessed at $25,000 in Carbon County will pay $1,392 in school tax again this year. In Coaldale, the bill increases by 50 cents, to $1,306.50.

The 2013-14 budget drew supporting votes from all nine school directors, although Anthony DeMarco said he was hesitant in light of uncertain state funding.

Business manager Kenneth R. Marx Jr. has warned that avoiding a tax increase this year may well result in a sharp increase next year.

The district has been cutting staff and programs, and drawing down its fund balance to make ends meet without increasing taxes.

But Marx, at an April 17 Budget and Finance Committee meeting, warned against continuing to tap the fund balance, which is a kind of financial cushion. The state advises school districts to keep the account at about 8 percent of the amount of their annual expenses.

The account now stands at $2,235,669. Marx said that's a healthy amount.

To avoid a tax increase this year, the board froze administrative salaries, furloughed educators and cut programs. The cuts drew bitter opposition from students, parents and teachers.

A zero tax increase this year may mean a big one next year, Marx warned on April 17.

"My recommendation is, we haven't raised taxes for the last three years in Carbon ... if we don't raise taxes this year, that's $300,000 you're losing for next year," Marx said at the time. "If we don't raise 2 mills this year, we'll have to raise 4 mills next year, or come up with $600,000 in cuts."