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District seeks to avoid tax increase

Published May 08. 2013 05:05PM

Taxpayers in the Palmerton Area School District may just get a break on their property taxes next year.

That was the indication given by the board of school directors at a workshop session on Tuesday, where the general accord was to avoid a property tax increase for the 2013-14 school year.

Of the seven board members present for the discussion, a majority, which included directors Charles Gildner, Clarence Myers, Darlene Yeakel and Sherry Haas, recommended a zero-mill increase.

Conversely, director Barry Scherer and board President Tammy Recker opined they were in favor of a .75-mill increase, while director Susan Debski said she favored a tax increase of some kind.

If the board were to approve next year's budget with a zero-mill increase, it would leave the millage rate at 51.44 mills. For a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, they would again pay $2,572 in property taxes to the district.

Business manager Diane Serfass said revenues are at $27,892,525, while expenditures are at $28,174,999, which means the district would have to utilize $282,474 from its fund balance to balance a budget with a zero-mill increase.

Serfass noted that revenues are still subject to the governor passing his budget.

Afterward, Recker lauded Serfass for her work on the budget.

"Thank you so much for all that you've done," Recker said. "You've done a great job."

Serfass said a public presentation of the proposed final budget will be given at 6 p.m. May 14, in the high school auditorium.

In February, the board approved the 2013-14 preliminary general fund budget in the amount of $28,611,621, which would have raised the millage rate 1.18 mills, from 51.44 to 52.62 mills.

That came after Serfass stated in January that her recommendation was to raise taxes to the full index, and to apply for any exceptions it qualifies for. The only exception the district qualifies for is the retirement exception, she said.

Serfass 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.

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.

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