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Spending plan remains on track for 1.18-mill hike

Published February 20. 2013 05:08PM

Palmerton Area School District's 2013-14 spending plan remains on track for a 1.18-mill increase.

By a unanimous vote, the school board agreed on Tuesday to approve the 2013-14 preliminary general fund budget in the amount of $28,611,621.

If granted final approval, the budget would raise the millage rate by 1.18 mills, from 51.44 to 52.62 mills.

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. The district will continue to work to gather additional information in order to refine planned expenditures for the 2013-14 fiscal year, in order to minimize the impact to the taxpayers.

Last month, business manager Diane Serfass told the board her recommendation was to raise taxes to the full index, and to apply for any exceptions it qualifies for. The only exception the district currently qualifies for is the retirement exception, she said.

By doing so, the board still must utilize $504,635 from its fund balance to balance the budget, Serfass said at that time.

Serfass previously said the 2013-14 base index is 1.7 percent, but the district's has been adjusted to 2.3 percent based on its wealth. As a result, the most millage could increase without an approved exception or approved referendum is 1.18 mills, she said.

In March, PDE will inform the district whether its proposed tax rate increase is less than, or equal to, the index, at which time the district must seek PDE approval for exceptions, Serfass previously said.

A public presentation of the proposed final budget will be given in the high school auditorium on May 14, said Serfass, who added June 18 would then be the target date to adopt the final budget, which must be approved by June 28.

The board is scheduled to hold its next budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25.

This past June, the board adopted the 2012-13 spending plan, which called for a 4.68-percent, or 2.30-mill increase, in the property tax rate.

The $27,267,701 budget raised the millage rate from 49.14 to 51.44 mills, which means a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, had to pay $2,572, or $115 more, in property taxes to the district.

As part of that approval, the board authorized $179,700 of the 2012-13 committed fund balance to be allocated to the payment of the district's 2013-14 state Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) obligation.

That spending plan also called for the use of $272,486 from the fund balance to pay for the 2011-12 positions that were restored.

Also as part of that budget, the board rejected the transfer of $44,945 from the Special Athletic Account to general fund to reimburse the expense of the wrestling, cross country, golf and tennis programs for the 2011-12 fiscal year as per the board resolution dated June 7, 2011.

Exceptions the board used as part of that budget pertained to various items that dealt with construction and debt service; special education costs; the PSERS increase; and a total millage increase of 1.17 mills.

In addition, the board rejected a motion to utilize the following formula to allocate the donation of $46,351 from the Save Our Sports group before June 30, 2012; 2011-2012 total athletic expenditures less 2011-2012 gate receipts, less 2011-2012 budgeted local revenue equals the amount of the donation to be utilized to fund the total 2011-2012 athletic program. Any remaining donated funds shall be used in the same manner in subsequent years.

Additionally, the board authorized the transfer of $32,471 from the Special Athletic Account to General Fund to fund a portion of the 2011-2012 athletic program. The remaining SOS allocation was to have been placed in a separate account.

Also on Tuesday, Serfass announced that as part of the governor's budget, the district will see:

• A 1.7-percent increase in its Basic Education funding, which amounts to $115,651

• A $5,189 reduction in its Special Education funding

• $115,408 in Accountability Block Grant funding.

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