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Chambersburg school budget calls for 4.2-mill increase

June 17, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - On a 6-3 vote Wednesday night, the Chambersburg School Board gave its final approval to a $75.8 million budget for 2004-05 that includes a 4.2-mill increase in real estate taxes.

The additional mills will mean an increase in taxes of $65.10 a year for a property with a market value of $100,000, according to district figures. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.

Board members Craig Musser, Robert Helman, Lori Leedy, Thomas Orndorf, David Sciamanna and Renee Sharpe voted in favor of the spending plan. Board President Stanley Helman, Eugene Gayman and Fred Rice voted against the budget.

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"I just think there are some things we could have tweaked a little bit, but I had no major disagreements with it," Stanley Helman said after the vote. He said a portion of the $2.3 million in improvements being done to Lurgan Elementary could have been funded out of capital reserves as a way of holding down the tax increase.

"I was hoping we could get a quarter to a half a mill taken off that but, obviously, there wasn't support for that," he said.

The tax rate for the year beginning July 1 will be 62.53 mills.

"We started setting aside money for our future building projects," Musser said.

When the tentative budget was approved last month, one mill of the increase was dedicated to future debt service for building projects.

"It's a tough tax increase for a lot of people, but it moves the district considerably forward," Musser said.

In addition to beginning to build up money for capital improvement projects, Musser said the budget covers much higher health insurance costs, maintains educational programs and adds needed positions.

The cost of health insurance rose approximately $1.7 million in the new budget to about $7.2 million, according to a budget summary. Each mill brings in about $530,000, so the increase in health-care premiums is the equivalent of three mills.

Musser said the budget allocates funds for a number of new positions, including two secondary school guidance counselors, a heating and air-conditioning maintenance position, a dean of students at the high school, eight special education aides, a language arts/English supervisor and an instructional support team teacher. Musser said some of the positions are being paid for through a state grant.

"It funded everything I wanted and didn't really cut into the capital reserves," Orndorf said.

"I particularly voted no because the board added a number of expensive items that the administration had not originally recommended," Gayman said.

The budget is 9.8 percent higher than the current budget, according to the summary. Excluding increased state and federal subsidies and new debt service payments, the increase is 6.5 percent, or $4.4 million.

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