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Southern Franklin tax hikes likely

April 26, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Taxpayers in southern Franklin County's three school districts face school tax hikes next year to pay for new classrooms, more teachers and repairs to aging buildings, the district's superintendents say.

Average property owners will see school taxes go up from $35 to $40, depending on the district in which they live.

Final budgets will be adopted in June.

Waynesboro Area School District is looking at a preliminary hike of 8 mills, a figure that is likely to drop by the time the board adopts a 2000-2001 budget on June 13, Superintendent Robert Mesaros said.

One mill, which represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, brings in about $73,000 to the district.

The proposed $31.9 million budget is up from last year's $30.6 million.

Waynesboro has six schools, 275 teachers and 4,160 students.

The administration wants three new middle school reading teachers, a part-time psychologist and an instructional advisor for the high school. Additionally, administrators want to move a part-time coordinator to full-time.

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Mesaros said insurance and health care costs are up 10 percent and teachers' salaries go up 3 percent in the next budget year according to their contract.

Increased classroom space for special-education classes and computer labs has used up 20 regular classrooms in recent years, he said. Also, some of the district's school buildings are 40 years old and need to be modernized.

A consultant hired by the board to study school space and repair and renovations needs to existing buildings will report to the board May 16.

Greencastle-Antrim School District taxpayers are looking at a 5 mill increase, said Superintendent P. Duff Rearick.

Most of the increase will be used to start making payments on a $6.8 million, 20-year construction bond issue at the rate of $300,000 a year. The district needs the bond issue to pay for a 12 classroom-addition to the primary school, mechanical upgrades to the elementary school and a new middle school roof.

Rearick said the district operates on a 20-year renovation schedule to maintain its buildings.

The 12 new classrooms are needed to maintain a 25-to-1 student-teacher ratio in grades 3-5 and a 20-to-1 ratio in kindergarten to grade 2, he said. "Right now we're over in all of those classes," he said.

The state projects the district's population will increase by 600 students in the next eight years, or 2.5 percent a year. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," Rearick said.

Greencastle-Antrim has four schools, 160 teachers and 2,600 students. Next year's proposed budget of $19.3 million is about 6 percent higher than the current budget of $18.7 million.

William T. Konzal, superintendent of the six-school Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pa., said he, too, is looking at a 5 mill tax hike. The district has 184 teachers and 2,600 students.

It has to either repair or replace the middle school heating system. In November the school was shut down for two weeks when a steam expansion joint let go during the night and filled the building with steam. It peeled down ceiling tiles, ruined furniture, computers and carpeting and raised asbestos floors tiles. The students had classes in a local church and at Mercersburg Academy during the repairs.

Konzal said the estimate to install a new hot water system and air conditioning is $1.2 million. The School Board will decide if it will do that or spend less money and repair the old steam system.

The board and Tuscarora Teachers Association are in talks over a new contract for teachers next year. The current four-year pact expires June 30. The new budget has to account for salary increases.

The district ran on a $19.1 million budget last year. The new proposal calls for $19.7 million, Konzal said.

One mill brings in about $40,000 in that district.

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