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Waynesboro board weighs final school budget

June 16, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - With final passage of the 2004-05 budget scheduled in one week, the Waynesboro School Board is still looking at a 9-mill increase in real estate taxes to balance the $38.6 million spending plan.

"Increases in the cost of medical insurance, instructional salaries and additional reserves being set aside for facility improvement are the most significant factors contributing to an increase" in the 2004-05 budget, Superintendent Barry L. Dallara said.

"Further reductions in the general operating budget will require elimination of programs, staff reductions or increases in class size," Dallara told the board.

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Dallara said health-care premiums for the district have increased almost $1.1 million since 2002-03. Board President Lawrence Glenn said the district will pay about $4 million for health-care coverage in the upcoming year.

Glenn said the 9-mill figure is not likely to go down "unless we find some serious savings." He said the board is "pursuing a couple of areas" where there could be additional savings and that staffing was one of them, but he would not elaborate further.

While the increase in health-care premiums will be in double digits in 2004-05, Glenn said the Waynesboro Area Education Association worked with the board to limit what could have been a larger increase in premiums.

The district's 290 teachers will get a 4.2 percent salary increase next year, Glenn said.

One mill represents $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property. One mill brings in about $195,000 in tax revenues, he said. The increase would cost the owner of an average-assessed home about $142 more per year than the current tax bill.

"If you look back over the last five years, I think Chambersburg (Area School District) may be a little ahead of us" in terms of tax increases, Director Leland Lemley said. He asked if there is any way to prevent large tax hikes each year into the foreseeable future.

"If we get the cost of health care under control," Dallara answered.

Lemley also questioned whether new development will generate enough revenues in the future to fund the district. Washington Township has rezoned more than 1,000 acres of land primarily along Pa. 16 from agricultural to mostly residential use.

"We better start looking for commercial or industrial development," Lemley said. Residential development, he said, could cost the district more, particularly if it brings more children into the district.

During this year's budget process, Lemley said the board has not gone through the budget line-by-line to look for savings.

Glenn said final passage of the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, June 22.

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