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Franklin Co. school districts air budget proposals

April 14, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro is still struggling, Tuscarora is looking at a 5 mill rate hike and Greencastle-Antrim, for the fourth year in a row, has been able to hold the line on school taxes as board members in each of the three southern Franklin County school districts hammer out budgets for the next fiscal year.

Robert Mesaros, superintendent of the Waynesboro Area School District, said a preliminary budget calls for a tax hike of 12.2 mills for the fiscal 1999-2000 school year. He expects that to drop before a final budget is approved in May.

"We have a lot of work to do. This is just the beginning part," Mesaros said. "We expect to reduce that with cuts in programs and by looking at new revenues."

The board will hold its next budget work session on Tuesday, Mesaros said.

The largest of the three southern Franklin County school districts, Waynesboro runs on an annual budget of about $30 million. Last year the board raised school taxes for the district by 9.5 mills.

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One mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Each mill raises $71,400 for the district.

Some of the new tax money is being used to restore the district's fund balance or budget surplus. Waynesboro's board was forced to dip into it to balance its budget last year.

"Restoring the fund balance makes budgeting hard," Mesaros said. "We have to make it up, and the only way to do that is to cut programs or raise taxes."

The board has been trying to make up the surplus deficit by controlling spending, Mesaros said.

Tuscarora School District Superintendent Ted Rabold in Mercersburg, Pa., said the 5 mill tax hike represents about 2 percent of the projected 1999-2000 budget of $19 million. It will cost an average district taxpayer whose property is assessed at $5,000 about $25 more a year in school taxes, Rabold said.

Each mill represents $42,475 for the district.

Unbudgeted items brought current-year expenses from $18.6 million, the amount approved last June, to $18.8 million. The money went to new stadium bleachers, a new truck and computers.

Two new positions were added this year - an administrative assistant to work on staff development, curriculum and federal programs and a technology administrator to oversee the district's computers.

Tuscarora maintains a year-end balance of about $600,000, Rabold said.

Greencastle-Antrim School Board members managed to hold the line on taxes in spite of losing $645,000 in revenues stemming from assessment appeals from several large area businesses. Receiving breaks in their assessments were Grove Worldwide, Corning Inc., Citizens National Bank and the Food Lion Distribution Center, said P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of the district.

"That represents about 12 mills," Rearick said. One mill brings in about $60,000 in the district.

The new budget, expected to be adopted at the board's first meeting in June, is up by 3.4 percent next year, Rearick said. It went up from 18.1 in 1998-99 to $18.7 next year.

Through careful budgeting, the board has been able to absorb the loss from assessment appeals and cost increases of more than $250,000 for special education classes, Rearick said.

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