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School district taxpayers face 9-mill hike

June 23, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Property taxes in the Waynesboro Area School District will go up approximately 15 percent with the passage Wednesday night of a $38.6 million budget for 2004-05 that includes a 9-mill increase.

The board voted 7-2 in favor of the budget, which is $2.8 million higher than the budget that expires June 30, according to district figures.

"This is the largest tax increase the school board has ever passed in terms of dollars," said board member Leland Lemley, who was joined by Todd Rock in voting against the budget.

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When the administration presented the preliminary budget in May, Superintendent Barry Dallara told the board that about 6 mills were needed to balance the budget, Lemley said. He said it was the board that added the additional 3 mills.

That included $390,000, or 2 mills, dedicated to the capital reserve fund for future building projects, Lemley said.

One mill in real estates taxes represents $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property, according to district figures. The new tax rate will be 68.12 mills.

For a property with a market value of $100,000, property taxes will go up about $142, according to the district.

"This budget is an injustice and an unreasonable burden on the taxpayers of this community," said Denny Hazen of Quincy Township, one of two residents who spoke about the budget.

Hazen said the district is paying teachers too much and is levying taxes for new buildings that are being justified to meet "target class sizes." He said the average salary and benefits package for a district teacher is about $64,000.

"I never feel comfortable with tax increases," Board President Larry Glenn said after the meeting. At the same time, Glenn said the board is making decisions that will benefit the district in the future.

For the past few years, Glenn said, the district had been setting aside 1 mill for the capital reserve fund. State and federal mandates, rising health insurance costs and other factors mean the board has little control over a large part of the budget, he said.

Lemley said annual increases in district salaries and benefits outstrip increases in local, state and federal funding and will continue to do so unless the board takes action.

Board member Stanley Barkdoll said it makes sense for the district to save money now, so that it may borrow less in the future for capital improvement projects.

"I don't need you to be my banker," Lemley said. He said the district already pays the equivalent of 5 mills to 6 mills in debt service on a major building project from the 1990s. He said those mills set aside for debt service will likely not be cut when the bond issue is retired in 2012.

"You don't need to wait seven years to do some of the things that need to be done," Glenn said of the need for building improvements.

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