Tuscarora School District taxpayers facing possible tax hike

April 22, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The owner of an average home in the Tuscarora School District could be facing another $60 a year in school taxes if the local school board adopts a budget that calls for a 4.5-mill increase in taxes, the schools superintendent said recently.

"It will take some more work before we finally know where we are," Superintendent William Konzal said.

The district runs on an annual budget of about $22 million.

Each mill, which represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, brings in about $114,000 to the district. The current tax rate is 68.8 mills, said Richard Lipella, business manager for the district.

The reasons for the increase are a cutback in the amount of state aid coming to the districts and an increase in the amount districts must put in toward the state's retirement system, officials said.


Lipella said one half of the proposed tax hike is due to increases approved by the state legislature last year in the state's pension plan, for teachers as well as state workers. The increases prompted more employees to retire. That, coupled with a loss in interest that helps to support the system due to the sagging economy, is forcing school districts to contribute more from their local budgets.

The district will have to pay about $300,000 into the retirement fund next year, he said.

In addition, the state cut back on the amount of financial aid it gives school districts.

"For the last seven years, the state gave us an amount above what they gave the year before. Last year we received $250,000 less," Lipella said.

Added together, the losses represent what local taxpayers will have to make up, he said.

"It's out of control. We have no other alternative but to raise taxes," Lipella said.

The district is using some of its budget reserve to balance this year's budget. That will leave the district with a reserve entering the coming fiscal year of about $2.1 million.

"That's about one month's worth of expenses," Lipella said.

Lipella said the last time the Tuscarora School District raised taxes was for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

The Tuscarora School District has 183 faculty members and 2,650 students in six schools, including four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

Pennsylvania law requires that school districts adopt their budgets by June 30.

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