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Big hike looms for Waynesboro taxpayers

May 20, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Taxpayers who support the Waynesboro Area School District may be facing a whopping tax increase unless the school board comes up with more money or more cuts in its proposed budget for next year.

The latest figure under consideration Wednesday by schools Superintendent Barry Dallara and board President Larry Glenn is a 9-mill increase. That would cost the owner of an average-assessed home about $142 more than the current school tax bill.

Leland Lemley, who with board member Todd Rock cast the two dissenting votes at a meeting earlier this week, said that estimate was too low.

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"The average person paying taxes on a home will pay more than that," Lemley said Wednesday. "It's going to run me over $200. They haven't made any tough choices here."

Last week, Dallara said the district was facing a nearly $1.1 million budget deficit for the 2004-05 fiscal year. He said expected revenues for next year, according to a preliminary budget proposal, came to around $37.9 million, with projected revenues at $36.8 million.

At their meeting this week, board members increased the expenditure side to $38.5 million by adding $670,000 in projected expenses. Included in that figure are $390,000 to put aside for school repair projects, $150,000 to increase the reserve fund and $130,000 to pay on a $700,000 shortfall in employee health insurance premiums.

Dallara said the deficit may be cut by another $300,000. That money would come through a possible $200,000 increase in block grant funds and another $100,000 in budget cuts.

At best, he said, the new tax rate could be cut to 7.5 mills.

"We'll have to see what we can do, but I wouldn't expect much more than that," he said.

Glenn said the board would make every effort to lower the tax increase.

A mill is equivalent to $1,000 in assessed property value. One mill brings in $195,000 to the district.

Last year the district raised school taxes by 1.9 mills.

One cause for the higher expenses in the proposed budget is teacher salaries.

In February, the board and the 290-member Waynesboro Area Education Association signed a new four-year contract that gave the teachers salary increases ranging from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

Last week, the teachers association agreed to change insurance carriers, which will save the board about $70,000 next year, according to an association press release.

"Essentially, it's a done deal," Lemley said. "We had budget workshops, but all we did was hear the superintendent make presentations. We never went over the budget on a line-by-line basis."

The board must adopt a final budget by June 30.

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