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Property owners to see rise in school taxes

June 25, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - School boards in all three southern Franklin County school districts are adopting budgets this week that their superintendents say may have to be revisited once the state tells them how much money they will get for the next fiscal year.

A decision won't be made until after the start of the 2003-04 fiscal year July 1. School districts have to send their adopted budgets to the state by June 30.

All three districts are passing budgets this week that include increases in mill rates.

On Tuesday night, members of the Waynesboro Area School Board approved a $35.4 million budget that includes a 1.9 mill hike, eight-tenths of a mill higher than the projected 1.1 mill increase they had going into the budget session.

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The members agreed the increase will be necessary in the event the state subsidy is less than anticipated.

Schools Superintendent Barry Dallara said this is an unusual budget year for school boards across the state since Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed the line item that the legislature had put in the state budget for public school assistance.

The state is considering major changes in the way public schools are financed - from one based on real estate taxes to one based on income taxes, Dallara said.

School boards are having to send in balanced budgets to the state with no real estimate on how much the state will return in subsidies.

For that reason, Waynesboro School Board member K. Marilyn Smith moved to increase the mill rate to 1.9 to cover any state shortfall. The motion passed, with members Steve Kulla and Nelson Rock voting no.

At 1.1 mills, an average homeowner would pay about $15 more per year in school taxes. At 1.9 mills, it jumps to $25, board members said.

The increase bumps the total mill rate for the district to 59.12. One mill equals $1,000 of assessed property value.

Tuscarora School Board members voted Monday night on a two-mill increase for its $23 million budget for the next fiscal year.

Two mills will bring in $336,000, Schools Superintendent William Konzal said. It will cost the owner of an average priced house in the district about $32 more in school taxes next year.

In addition, Konzal said, the board has to dip into its fund balance to make up the rest of a $657 budget shortfall. A fund balance is money left over at the end of the year after all expenses are met.

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board is expected to adopt its new budget tonight, Schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said.

Taxpayers there are looking at a 5 mill tax increase.

The district also faces the question of what it will gain or lose in state funds.

"That's an excellent question," Rearick said.

The district only has had small tax hikes in recent years, he said.

The budget, as proposed, is $22 million, but the district needs to raise taxes to cover a projected $725,000 deficit - mostly due to a drop in the district's earned income tax revenues and a drop in investment income.

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