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Tax Increase Possible with Schools Budget

Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci sends 'budget message to community.'

A tax increase could be looming for Pine-Richland residents.

That is the word from schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci, who published a "budget message to community" yesterday on the district's website.

The schools $65 million preliminary budget is scheduled for a vote Monday by the nine-person school board. The board meets at 7:30 p.m. at the school district building, 702 Warrendale Road in Gibsonia.

The budget is in an early stage -- the final budget and tax rate are not voted upon until June.

"The preliminary budget shows a tax millage increase of 1.31 mills," Bucci's message states. That would raise the current tax rate by 6 percent from 21.9084 mills to 23.2184.

The proposed increase is above the limit set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education; its adjusted index of 1.7 percent translates to .3724 mills, according to Bucci.

"Our current financial gap for 2011-2012 is about $2.4 million," Bucci explains.

Because the proposed millage rate increase is higher than the index allows, "the district is filing for exceptions that will allow, but not require, the board to take action," said Bucci.

Bucci outlined three options to address the budget shortfall:

  • No tax increase. This would mean cuts in personnel, program and / or services to balance the budget.
  • Raise taxes to the index level -- an increase of .3724 mills -- to cover the cost of living increases in personnel, programs and / or services. Some reductions, however, may still be needed.
  • Raise taxes to a rate higher than the index. This would allow the district to maintain most of its existing personnel, programs and / or services. In addition, the district would reduce costs by improving efficiency, delaying improvements and not filling vacant positions. 

"As you know, last year we chose option three.  We were facing a $7 million gap in our budget," Bucci said.  "We closed that gap by cutting costs by almost $4 million and increasing revenue by $3 million when we increased taxes ...  Those were difficult decisions for both the school board and the administration."  

The current school year's $62.9 million budget was approved in June with a 1.7 mill increase in the tax rate. This came after several years of no tax increases.

"During tough economic times, no one wants to ask for a tax increase," Bucci continued. "We know that our residents are struggling to balance their own budgets.  We also know that families often do not have the option of increasing their revenue and must rely solely on cutting costs to make ends meet."

She pointed out that many school district costs are mandated and out of the district's control. For instance, costs for the the Public School Employees' Retirement System have risen dramatically.

"These are tough times, and they call for tough decisions," said Bucci.  

"Unfortunately, the one option that is clearly NOT available is maintaining all of our current level of programs and services and not raising revenues," she wrote. "I am confident that when we take time to listen to each other and to reason together we make sound decisions. We can work through these challenges and together build a better, stronger district."

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