Pine-Richland School Board Looks at .95-Mill Increase in Tax Rate
The board will vote Jan. 23 on a preliminary 2012-2013 budget.
But the school district's superintendent cautioned at Monday night's board meeting that the budget was in a very early phase.
“This is very preliminary,” said Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci. “What this does is allow us to apply for exceptions to the (state) index” to allow an increase beyond Pine-Richland's 2 percent limit.
The board will vote on the preliminary 2012-2013 budget at its regular board meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23. The meeting will be held in the DeWitt Blank Conference Room at the district’s administrative office building, 702 Warrendale Road, in Gibsonia.
Information about the budget, which calls for $66.8 million in expenditures, is available online for the public to view.
“While the board approved advertising a 0.95-mill increase, the final budget may not call for a tax increase,” explained Dana Siford, director of finance and student services in a letter on the district’s website.
Currently, the tax rate is 21.9084 mills; the proposed rate is 22.8584 mills, an increase of 4.34 percent.
“To even consider a tax increase in the next several months, the district must notify the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). PR's increase is limited to a 2 percent increase in taxes, which is equivalent to 0.4381 mills,” Siford continued.
To advertise a possible increase in taxes above the state index, schools must apply to the state for exceptions by Feb. 9 and then wait to see if the increase is approved.
“Last year we did the same thing,” Bucci said. “We received approved exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but the board did not exercise any of those options. But it allows you to have those options on the table.”
The school district did not raise taxes last year.
“The exceptions PR could qualify for relate to the increasing costs of special education and mandatory Public School Employees' Retirement System,” Siford said in the letter.
In Monday's school board meeting, Siford said she has only received one email from a resident regarding clarification on certain aspects of the budget.
"Periodically, we will provide you updates on the 2012-2013 budget," Siford said in the letter posted on the website. "Questions or comments regarding the proposed preliminary budget may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence will be provided to the school board."
In addition to budget talks at Monday's meeting, the board discussed the Property Tax Rebate Program, which provides tax rebates for eligible citizens. It is also scheduled for a Jan. 23 vote.
The program is modeled on the state tax rebate program and has been enacted for the past three years. To qualify, a person must be a homeowner 65 years or older; 50 years or older and a widow; or 18 years or older and disabled.
Director Peter Lyons initially opposed the idea.
“I would really need to be persuaded to vote to reauthorize this,” Lyons said. “It has a relatively small affected number of people. It might be large for those individuals. Every dollar that funds the program comes out of everyone else in the district’s pocket.
“If you’re really poor and 49, you don’t qualify.”
Treasurer Dennis Sundo, who was involved with the inception of the idea, strongly supported the program.
“It was nothing more than trying to give a break and do something good for the most vulnerable members of our community, and it’s those seniors on fixed income,” Sundo said.