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Chambersburg school officials give preliminary OK to budget

May 09, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -Chambersburg school officials approved a preliminary 2002-03 school budget Wednesday that includes a 2.49-mill tax increase.

The $62.2 million budget keeps programs and staffing at the same level as the start of the current school year, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

The amount of the tax increase has steadily dropped since January, when Sponseller first told the Chambersburg Area School District Board of School Directors it might take a 7-mill increase to balance the budget.

"We dodged a bullet for one year," he said.

The proposed increase means homeowners will pay about $43 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.

Increases in retirement costs, salaries and special education are the main reasons for the tax increase.

A bill passed last month by the Pennsylvania General Assembly will significantly reduce the amount local school districts must pay into the state retirement fund.

Chambersburg had expected the new retirement rate would cost the district $790,000, 517 percent more than last year.

Legislators, however, worked the numbers and were able to reduce the amount school districts have to pay into the fund next year.

The new law dropped the Chambersburg district's payment to slightly below $200,000, Vensel said.

The tax increase will also cover an additional $940,000 in salary increases and special education costs that are up $447,000.

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, according to Sponseller.

He said there is still time for the legislature to increase its amounts, but the district won't know until next month.

Sponseller also warned of rough years ahead, as the district's payments into the pension steadily increase and the possibility it will lose its largest taxpayer if Menno Haven Inc., wins its tax appeal.

"Next year, there will be no election. I don't think there will be a reprieve from the legislature" in the retirement rate increase, Sponseller said.

The school board will also consider reducing the budget before approving a final budget June 12.

Some suggestions include cutting staff development activities by $50,000, delaying the textbook adoption cycle to allow a one-time savings of $330,000, reducing the custodial staff by three positions to save $73,000, and eliminating several faculty positions at the junior high and senior high schools that could total more than $300,000.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 3.

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