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Hike in taxes possible in Pa.

March 19, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The average Waynesboro area property owner hasn't seen school taxes go up much in the last seven years. Next year, if the school board doesn't make some budget cuts, homeowners could pay another $125 a year.

Schools Superintendent Robert Mesaros said the Waynesboro Area School District may have to seek an 18.5-mill tax increase.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Mesaros and Dr. Robert J. Ternes, school board president, said Thursday they are concerned that the district's fund balance, or year-end surplus, will be down to zero at the end of the fiscal year in June.

Two years ago, the balance, which is considered a cushion against unexpected expenses during the year, was up to $1.2 million. It dropped to $700,000 at the end of last year, officials said.

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A tax hike may be the only way to restore the balance to a comfortable level, officials said. Without one, the budget could end up in the red at the end of the 1998-99 school year, Ternes said.

Next year's preliminary budget proposal, which was given to the school board this week, shows a 3 percent increase in spending to $30.9 million. The current year's budget rounds out to about $30 million.

Some of the spending culprits for next year include a 26 percent hike in employees' medical insurance, three new teaching and five new assistant positions, a 3 percent hike in transportation costs and a big unknown - the amount it will cost the district for teacher pay increases.

The teachers' current three-year contract with the board expires in June and negotiations are under way for a new contract, Ternes said.

Mesaros said school taxes increased by 4.5 mills in the last seven years. The average homeowner paid about $30 in school taxes over the last seven years.

Each mill increases an average property owner's tax bill by $7 a year. An 18.5-mill rate hike would increase the school tax bill by more than $125, Ternes said.

The board and school administrators will take a sharper look at the budget next week to see where cuts can be made. The board has until June 30 to adopt the new budget.

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