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Adjusted budget calls for 2.31-mill increase

Published February 08. 2012 05:01PM

Palmerton Area School District's altered spending plan could result in less of an increase in next year's property tax rate.

Donna Les, interim business manager, told the school board at a committee workshop on Tuesday that the adjusted 2012-13 budget calls for a 2.31-mill increase.

If the board were to approve a budget with a 2.31-mill increase, that would raise the millage rate from 49.14 to 51.45 mills. That would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000 and assessed at $50,000 would pay $2,573, or $116 more in property taxes to the district next year.

Les said the adjusted $27,224,421 budget would require the use of $272,486 from the fund balance to pay for the 2011-12 positions that were restored.

She said a 2.31-mill increase would be needed to fund a $27,224,421 budget, plus $45,626 to keep four sports - wrestling, cross country, golf, and tennis - from being cut, which would result in a total budget of $27,270,047.

However, Les told the board the district does qualify for two exceptions: special education, and retirement contributions. Therefore, the millage permitted under Act 1 with exceptions would be 2.78 mills without having to cut programming or go out to referendum, she said.

Les noted the district's financial state was "certainly a lot better than this time last year."

Superintendent Carol Boyce added "nobody likes tax increases; nobody wants to eliminate programs."

"Are we on the razor's edge where we are? We need to do what's best by the community and the kids."

Board President Barry Scherer noted the consensus of the board at the present time was to work with a budget that calls for a 2.31-mill increase.

While he didn't have a problem with a 2.31-mill increase, Scherer noted he would like to see a budget with line items.

"I understand the building's budgets are bareboned," Scherer said. "I would like to see if there's any line items we can cut."

Les noted that administration will do what it can to attempt to lessen a 2.31-mill increase. The final budget for 2012-13 must be approved by June 30, 2012.

Boyce lauded Les, whom she said has "done yeoman's service" in crafting the 2012-13 spending plan.

In December, the board approved a $27,817,801 preliminary budget, which at the time called for an 8.55-percent, or 4.2-mill increase.

However, Les noted at that time the millage rate had to be artificially inflated in order to provide a balanced budget, and that it didn't reflect the actual millage impact. The most the board could raise taxes is by 1.98 mills, she said.

That budget would have raised the millage rate from 49.14 to 53.34 mills, which would have meant a person with a home valued at $100,000 and assessed at $50,000, would have had to pay $2,667, or $210 more in property taxes to the district next year.

Also at that time, Boyce announced that, effective Dec. 31, a freeze would be put on spending on everything except for emergencies and ongoing expenditures.

This year, residents saw a 12.6-percent increase in their property tax rates after the board, on a 5-4 vote in June, adopted a $26,595,297 spending plan for the 2011-12 school year that called for a 5.506-mill increase.

The 2011-12 budget raised the millage rate from 43.64 to 49.14 mills, and meant a person with a home valued at $100,000 that was assessed at $50,000 had to pay $2,457, or $277 more in property taxes to the district.

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