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Chambersburg OKs district's school budget

May 12, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District Board of School Directors voted 6-3 Wednesday to tentatively approve the $56.8 million budget presented last month, although some members suggested using the system's reserve funds to balance the budget instead of raising taxes.

Wednesday's vote set a ceiling on expenditures for the 2000-2001 school year, but a vote on raising taxes would come with the final adoption Monday, June 12.

The administration is proposing raising real estate taxes 2.5 mills to bring in an additional $446,000 to balance the budget. A mill represents $1 in taxes on every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.

Director Thomas Orndorf raised the idea of using some of the district's cash reserves to balance the budget. "When the unrestricted fund balance is healthy, why tax the taxpayers?" he said.

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"If you want to make a one-time purchase you won't get an argument out of me," District Business Manager George Fike said. He said it would be risky, however, to start using cash reserves "to start paying our electric bills and salaries."

Director Penny Stoner agreed, saying some school systems have quickly depleted their cash reserves that way and ended up having to make large tax increases.

"I think the revenue that will come in will exceed expenditures," Director William Fosnot said. He predicted the economy will be healthy enough over the next year for revenues to once again exceed expenditures, thus making a tax increase unnecessary.

"There's not a person in the room who wants you to be wrong," Superintendent Dr. Edwin Sponseller said.

If passed, the tax increase would increase the average property owner's taxes by about $19, the administration said last month.

The proposed budget is $1.7 million higher than the current year's, an increase of 3.15 percent, according to administration figures.

A $771,000 increase in Blue Cross/Blue Shield payments would be offset by a similar decrease in district contributions to the state's teacher retirement system. Salaries, wages and benefits, which constitute 73 percent of the budget, would increase by about $1.1 million next year, according to budget figures.

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