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Final Chambersburg school budget includes tax hike

July 01, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania still had not passed legislation to fund public schools, but the Chambersburg School Board was up against a deadline for its budget, passing a $65.5 million spending plan Monday night by a 7-1 vote.

With the 2003-04 school year just hours away, the board met to pass the budget and found a way to include $235,364 in it for items not included in the preliminary budget approved at its May 28 meeting.

Those items, which were recommended by the administration, included a television studio at Faust Junior High School for $66,409, online distance learning for $60,279, $25,000 more for textbooks, $16,300 for furniture at the middle and high schools and about $30,000 in additional funding for music programs at Faust Junior High School and the high school.

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Those will be paid for out of the general fund, as will $367,900 in other projects that were originally to have been funded out of the district's capital reserve fund, according to Business Manager Rick Vensel.

Offsetting those additional expenditures, the board amended the preliminary budget by authorizing $512,553 in debt service on the recently passed $12.7 million bond issue be paid for out of the capital reserve rather than the general fund.

Most of the bond issue is for improvements at the high school, including $9.8 million for a new heating and air conditioning system.

With an additional $30,000 in expected energy savings for the new school year, the net increase in the budget was $60,711, according to Vensel.

That upped the projected real estate tax increase from 1.42 mills to 1.54 mills, or another $1.54 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.

For the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000, Vensel said the tax increase will amount to an additional $26.03 this year, or about $986 annually. The increase would have been about $24 under the preliminary budget.

The administration had originally proposed a 2.96-mill real estate tax increase, which would have raised taxes on that $100,000 home by about $50 a year.

"I think it's very fair to the taxpayer and it fully funds what the staff wants for next year," Director Michael B. Finucane said after the meeting. "We still held the tax increase down pretty well."

It was Finucane who proposed last month that the tax increase be held to 2.5 percent, about the average annual increase in Social Security for the past decade. The new budget raises taxes 2.6 percent, he said.

"I'm happy that they put all of the things that are necessary into the budget, because all of those really are for the kids," said Renee Sharpe, who won both the Republican and Democratic nominations for a Region 8 seat on the board in the May 20 primary.

The lone vote against the budget was cast by Director Robert Helman. Director Harold W. Fosnot Jr. was not at the meeting.

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