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JT tries to keep taxes level

Jim Thorpe Area School District has had the same property tax rate for nearly a decade, despite a recent history of budget shortfalls.

School board members said during a recent finance committee meeting they hope to keep it that way for another year.

“I’m not interested in raising taxes,” board member Jerry Strubinger said.

The school board is in the process of preparing its 2021-22 budget, which it is required to pass by June 30.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires school districts to say in February whether they plan to raise taxes over the Act 1 index. Jim Thorpe’s index is 3.8 percent, or 1.73 mills.

The school board voted last month to pass a resolution saying it would not exceed the index.

During a committee meeting last week, members went a step further and said they oppose any tax increase.

Strubinger, Scott Pompa and Pearl Downs-Sheckler all said they are opposed to raising taxes in the coming school year.

The past two years, the board adopted budgets where expenses exceeded revenue. To balance the budget, the board approved taking money from the district’s reserve funds, which totaled about $11.4 million before the 2020-21 school year.

In 2019-20, the deficit ended up much smaller than they projected.

When board members adopted their 2020-21 budget, they pledged to cut expenses.

The budget for the 2020-21 school year was passed with a deficit of about $4.9 million; $48.6 million in expenses compared to $43.7 million in revenue.

It’s possible that expenses could come in under budget, as they did the previous year. The 2019-20 budget had a projected deficit of $2.9 million, however actual expenses and revenue ended even.