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Taxpayers to see $50 cut in Pa. tax hike

April 15, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Taxpayers who support the Waynesboro Area School District saw a proposed $125 increase in their school taxes melt down to about $75 this week after administration staffers chopped away at the district's 1998-99 budget, school officials said Wednesday.

Administrators in March proposed an 18.5 mill rate hike for next year to finance a $30.9 million school budget and to maintain a comfortable year-end surplus, Superintendent Robert Mesaros said when the budget proposal was first unveiled.

Since then they have shaved 6 mills off the tax hike, cutting the 18.5 mills originally proposed to 12.5 this week, Jack Kennedy, business manager for the district, said Wednesday.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. School taxes in Waynesboro have jumped 4.5 mills over the last seven years, Mesaros has said.

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To get 6 mills out of the budget, the staff made $382,000 in cuts across the board, and found another $42,000 in revenues for a total of $425,000. That will leave a deficit of $879,000, which will be covered by the 12.5 mill rate hike. That also means there will be no cushion in the new budget.

Kennedy said if the school board wants to cut the mill rate even lower it will have to make more cuts in the budget or find more revenue somewhere. The new budget must be balanced and approved by June 30.

One reason for the tax hike is that school officials are worried that increasing costs will consume all of the $750,000 budget surplus they estimate will be left at the end of the school year in June.

The surplus has been dropping drastically in recent years, according to Kennedy's figures. Two years ago it was $2.2 million. By June 1997, it had dropped to $1.1 million.

The original budget proposal of $30.9 million was 3 percent higher than the current year's budget. Included in the new appropriation are a 26 percent hike in employees' medical insurance and three new teaching positions for the 1,400-student system.

One remaining unknown is whether teachers will receive pay raises. Talks are under way about the teachers' contract, which expires in June.

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