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Pa. school budgets include 2-mill tax hikes

May 23, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The owners of an average-priced home in three southern Franklin County school districts will see increases in their property taxes ranging from $30 to $50 a year, according to budgets being adopted by area school boards.

All three districts - Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim and Tuscarora - are looking at tax hikes of about two mills. A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property values.

Members of the Waynesboro School Board this week voted for a 1.91-mill hike to run the district in 2002-03. That would bring the district's mill rate to 57.63, or $57.63 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Each mill brings in $185,000 to the district in property taxes.

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Waynesboro's proposed budget for next year is $33.6 million.

Not included in the board's budget projections is money that may be needed for higher teacher salaries. The board and the Waynesboro Area Education Association are in negotiations on a new teachers' contract. The current pact expires June 30.

Transportation and other operational expenses, including building maintenance and repairs, will not exceed the current year's expenses, said Schools Superintendent Barry Dallara.

P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of the Greencastle-Antrim School District, said a two-mill rate hike is needed there to cover the district's $21.4 million budget for next year. The difference between projected income versus expenses is about $1 million.

"We'll need about two mills to make up the difference," Rearick said.

The school board included money next year to add an English teacher in the high school, put computers in every third-grade classroom and to continue the upgrade of computer technology in the primary school. Also included are 125 wireless laptop computers for the high school, enough money for proper maintenance of school property and some long-term capital investments, the superintendent said.

The last time school taxes were raised in the district was 2000. Before that, it was in 1995, Rearick said.

It will cost the Tuscarora School District, which encompasses the Mercersburg, Pa., area, about $21.9 million to run the schools there next year, said Schools Superintendent William Konzal. That means a two-mill tax hike, the first for the district in two years.

Konzal said things will be "status quo" next year. The school board is adding a social studies teacher in the high school to maintain proper student-teacher ratios, he said.

The board is finishing up a district-wide facilities study to set maintenance priorities, but money for any projects won't be budgeted until the 2003-04 school year, Konzal said.

When school budgets were first being discussed by the local districts in early spring, officials in all three districts figured tax rates would be increased to four to five mills over what they dropped down to in late May.

In March, state school districts were facing whopping increases in the amount they were going to have to pay into the state's employee pension funds. A subsequent vote in the state legislature enabled each of the three local districts to lop off at least two mills in their final budget proposals.

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