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Palmerton district looking at tax hike

Published January 25. 2011 05:02PM

Early indications suggest taxpayers who live in the Palmerton Area School District could see an 8.15 percent increase in their property tax rates next year.

The school board on an 8-0 vote Monday agreed to advertise the 2011-12 preliminary budget, which, if approved, would raise the millage rate 3.56 mills in the 2011-12 school year. Director Darlene Yeakel was absent.

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 newly appointed part-time Interim Acting Business Administrator Donna Les prior to its regular meeting.

Les told the board 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 tweaked.

"Understand there's a myriad of questions we don't have answers for with the preliminary budget," Les said. "There are a lot of unknowns; we did the best we can."

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

"You should make changes," she said. "This budget is not etched in stone."

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.

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

Last month, 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.

Also on Tuesday, the board agreed to hire Les, part-time interim, as acting business administrator, effective Jan. 5, 2011, at the rate of $300 a day.

In another administrative move, the board also approved Deb Scheckler as assistant board secretary, effective immediately.

In other budgetary matters, the board:

• On a 6-2 vote, approved the 2011-12 proposed secondary budget for Carbon Career & Technical Institute in the amount of $6,929,806, for final adoption by resolution, as well as the 2011-12 general operating budget for Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit. Directors Carol Dwyer and Tina Snyder were opposed.

• Agreed to table the 2011-12 General Operating Budget for Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit.

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