Panther Valley considers property tax increase
The Panther Valley School Board is considering a property tax increase as part of its 2018-19 budget, but it may fail to get enough support.
The board narrowly passed a proposed final budget Thursday night. It includes a 3.37 percent tax increase for Carbon County residents and a 5.53 percent increase for Schuylkill.
Board President Wayne Gryzik cast the fifth and deciding vote in favor of the proposed budget to move along the process after initially voting against it.
Gryzik said he believes before their next meeting, the board can review expenses and possibly reduce the proposed tax increase. Districts are required to adopt a final budget by June 30.
Christopher Kerestes was the only board member who voted against the budget in the final tally. Justin Foster, Keith Krapf and Renee Demelfi were all absent. Expenses have increased by approximately 3.5 percent since last year’s budget was adopted. Officials did not provide specifics on what increased at Thursday’s meeting.
Business manager Ken Marx strongly encouraged the board to pass the proposed budget. Marx said that the board has held the line on taxes in recent years — if passed this would be only the second tax increase in the past eight years. The tax rate for Carbon County residents would be 62.2270 mills; the tax rate for Schuylkill County residents would be 53.95.
Marx said that the majority of homeowners — about 70 percent — won’t see their taxes increase by more than $50.
During his report before the vote, Superintendent Dennis Kergick talked about a recent report on the state of education in Pennsylvania. He said the study identified budget concerns as the number one threat to public education, with 83 percent of respondents in the study saying the continued increase in school districts’ pension costs were a major concern.
“It’s scary. It’s a frightening time,” Kergick said.
He also updated the school board on the ongoing lawsuit brought against state lawmakers by Panther Valley and other school districts to make a more equitable solution to the way that Pennsylvania doles out school funding. A state appeals court recently rejected the lawmakers’ preliminary objections to the suit. While the case is a long way from being decided, Kergick said the news was encouraging.
“There would be a lot more money coming into this school district,” Kergick said.