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Chambersburg school officials reveal budget deficit

April 11, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - School officials recommended a 4.075 mill tax increase Wednesday in order to collect about $2 million to balance the upcoming budget.

The $63.8 million budget for 2002-03 keeps programs and staffing at the same level as the start of this school year, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller told the Chambersburg Area School District Board of School Directors.

The proposed increase means homeowners will pay about $70 more a year if they own a $100,000 house, Business Manager Rick Vensel said.

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A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.

"If the board can't see fit to increase taxes by that millage it will have to consider corresponding decreases," Sponseller said.

He pointed to retirement costs, salaries and special education as reasons for the increase.

The state retirement rate will cost the district an additional $790,000, about 517 percent more than last year. That alone accounts for 1.62 mills, he said.

In addition, salary increases account for an additional $940,000 to the budget while special education costs are up $447,000, Sponseller said.

The district must also budget $200,000 to cover the costs of charter cyber school students. Increased costs in health care, alternative education and tuition at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center are also up at least $100,000 each, he said.

At the same time revenues are down, namely state funding, which only includes a 1 percent increase in base education subsides and a 1.5 percent increase in special education, he said.

Sponseller had initially projected in January that it would take a 7 mill increase to make up the revenue.

"That was worst-case scenario," Vensel said.

The projected shortfall of $3.2 million in January is down to about $2 million by changing some estimated expenses, including:

n A 5 percent instead of 10 percent increase in health insurance costs.

n Salary increases will average only 2.8 percent instead of 3.5 percent.

n Savings in the maintenance budget, in part due to the Chambersburg Area Middle School energy project.

n Placing cyber school funding at $200,000 instead of $250,000.

n Cutting about $400,000 worth of capital projects.

While 58 percent of the budget is funded locally, the school district has among the lowest tax rates in the state, ranking 464 out of 501 districts, Vensel said.

Vensel said the proposed budget is conservative, and it is possible the mill rate could go down if legislators are pressured into changing the retirement rate the district pays the state.

Sponseller said he will know by the end of the month if the mill rate will change.

The school board will have a month to consider the budget before adopting a tentative budget on May 8. A public hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 3, with final adoption on June 12.

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