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Schools want four-mill tax hike

June 03, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Only a few people raised objections to a proposed four-mill real estate tax hike during a public hearing Wednesday on the Chambersburg Area School District's $55 million 1999-2000 budget.

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"How does a new office building help educate our children?" asked Linda Brooks, of Chambersburg. She was referring to a $2.9 million project to convert part of the former J. Schoeneman Co. plant to an administration building.

School board candidate David Drawbaugh also questioned the cost of the administration building. Contracts for the building were several hundred thousand dollars higher than the administration originally estimated.

"In a $53 million budget there must be something you can trim without having another tax increase," Brooks said.

She said her school district property taxes increased $600 between 1991 and 1998.

Superintendent Dr. Edwin Sponseller said real estate revenues are not growing fast enough to meet the requirements of the budget without the increase. District Business Manager George Fike estimated real estate tax revenues will be $514,000 higher than 1998-99, but the four-mill increase will bring in $723,000 more to meet projected expenditures of $53.5 million.

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The budget includes a $1.5 million budgetary reserve. Sponseller said it's needed in the event of unbudgeted expenditures.

When the budget was tentatively adopted last month, administration officials said the reserve could be used for salaries should the district come to terms on contract negotiations with teachers and support staff.

The state subsidy to the district will be $338,000 higher in the coming year, but federal subsidies are expected to remain level, according to Fike.

Alan Burr, of Chambersburg, objected to a number of purchases listed in the budget, including sousaphones, maps, magazines and a $245 Ping-Pong table.

"What does table tennis have to do with education?" Burr asked the school board members.

One mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property. If approved, the four-mill increase will raise school taxes to 127.5 mills.

Sponseller said that is 44.5 mills less than the Tuscarora School District and 39.5 less than in the Greencastle-Antrim School District. He cited state figures from 1996-97 that ranked Chambersburg 459th lowest among 501 school districts in Pennsylvania in taxes and 457th in per-pupil spending.

"I think we have a budget we can be proud of," he said.

Adoption of the budget is set for Monday, June 21.

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