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District must rework preliminary budget

Published February 08. 2011 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School District must rework next year's preliminary budget to help offset an additional 2.72-mill increase.

Part-time Interim Acting Business Administrator Donna Les informed the school board's budget and finance committee on Monday that required adjustments are needed to the district's 2011-12 spending plan.

Les told the committee the amount of money the district budgeted for its share of the 2011-12 Carbon Career & Technical Institute budget was understated by about $351,060.

"We went back to look at actual enrollments so that we're only paying for the Palmerton students we should be paying for," Les said. "We need to make that adjustment."

That, coupled with the loss of $426,051 in federal program money, would have required an additional 2.72-mill increase in the district's 2011-12 preliminary budget, Les said.

"The fact is that we want to get the actual expense into the budget," she said. "Otherwise, you end up using fund balance."

In the meantime, Les told the committee she planned to make the adjustments to the preliminary budget to have ready for tonight's school board committee workshop.

Superintendent Carol Boyce said the next step will be for she and Les to meet with each district administrator to review their budgets line-by-line.

Boyce said the board's budget and finance committee would then review the reworked preliminary budget in about two weeks.

The board plans to adopt the 2011-12 preliminary budget when it meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 15.

Last month, the board agreed to advertise the preliminary budget, which calls for an 8.15 percent, or 3.56-mill, increase in their property tax rates next year.

If approved, the millage rate would increase from 43.64 to 47.20 mills. That means a person with a home valued at $100,000, which would be assessed at $50,000, would pay $2,360, or about $180 more in property taxes to the district next year.

The board's decision came on the heels of a budget workshop agenda with budget process basics presented by Les prior to its regular meeting.

Les told the board at that time that of the $1.7 million the district had in its fund balance, only $730,000 remains after the other $923,000 was used to balance the current year's budget.

However, Les cautioned that the preliminary budget is only a rough draft, and therefore can be modified.

Les encouraged the board to revisit the budget between now and final adoption due by June 30.

As required by Act 1 of 2006, the board intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or the Carbon County Court, for all referendum exceptions for which the district qualifies.

On written request by any school district resident or taxpayer, the district will provide a copy of the referendum exception application.

In December, the committee met with each of the district's department heads as part of a pair of meetings in its attempt to craft next year's spending plan.

This year, homeowners saw a 3.9 percent, or 1.64-mill increase, in their property tax rates after the board in June approved the 2010-11 budget on a 5-4 vote that raised the millage rate from 42 to 43.64 mills.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,182 in property taxes to the district, $82 more than the $2,100 rate they paid in 2009-10 when the board passed a budget with a 2.44 percent, or 1 mill, increase that resulted in a $50 increase for residents with the same home value.

Before that, the last time the district raised property taxes was in the 2007-08 school year, when it passed a budget with a 2.5 percent increase.

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