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School budget approval may be delayed

June 04, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board may postpone its vote on a new budget until the end of the month to see if the state earmarks any more money for education.

School officials said they are likely to decide today if the board will vote on the proposed 2002-03 budget next week or later this month.

They must pass a final budget by June 30.

Last month, the board approved a preliminary budget that includes a 2.49 mill tax increase.

However, the state legislature returned to session this week and is expected to pass a budget in the next two weeks. Different versions of the budget call for an additional 1percent to 2 percent funding for education and, if approved, could require a dollar-for-dollar decrease in taxes, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

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An additional 1 percent in the basic education subsidy would mean about $155,000 more for the Chambersburg Area School District, just a fraction of the district's proposed $62.2 million budget.

The board can pass the budget at its regularly scheduled meeting next week, but it could face coming back to vote on another budget later in the month and reprinting tax bills, Sponseller said.

"There is no use in passing a budget when there may be a dollar-for-dollar reduction in real estate taxes," Business Manager Rick Vensel said during a public hearing on the budget Monday night.

Only one person turned out for the hearing, during which Sponseller briefly outlined the budget.

He said the numbers have not changed since the board's tentative approval last month. The proposed budget is a 3.7 percent increase over last year's.

The estimated 2.49 mill tax increase would keep staffing and programs at the same level as at the start of the current school year, and cover salary increases, higher health insurance costs and new cyber school costs.

The proposed increase means homeowners will pay about $43 more a year if they own a $100,000 house. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.

The amount of the tax increase has steadily dropped since January when Sponseller first told the school board it might take a 7 mill increase to balance the budget.

A bill passed in April by the Pennsylvania Legislature significantly reduced 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.

Board members did not comment Monday on suggestions Sponseller presented last month to cut the current budget.

Some suggestions include cutting staff development activities by $50,000 and delaying the textbook adoption cycle to allow a one-time savings of $330,000.

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