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School taxes going up in Pa.

June 30, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Owners of average-priced homes in the Tuscarora and Greencastle-Antrim school districts will pay about $40 more in school taxes next year, while their counterparts in the Waynesboro Area School District will see about a $140 jump in their tax bills.

School boards in all three districts approved final budgets earlier this month. The deadline to do so is today.

William Needy, who retires this week as business manager for the Greencastle-Antrim School District, said the school board there approved a $23.1 million budget for next year.

That's about $1 million more than the current year's budget.

Reasons for the increase include higher health-insurance premiums for employees and a big jump in the cost of natural gas that heats the district's buildings, Schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick has said.

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Projected revenues are $22.2 million, leaving a deficit of about $900,000. The money will be made up by raising the district's tax rate by 2.5 mills and taking about $551,000 from the fund balance.

One mill represents $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.

Tom Stapleford, superintendent of the Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pa., said the board there approved a final budget of about $25 million. Revenues are projected at $24 million.

Some of the $1 million deficit will be made up with a 4-mill hike in the district's tax rate, he said.

The board began its budget deliberations looking at a deficit of about $1.79 million, including a $1.2 million increase in the cost of providing health insurance to employees.

Through negotiations with the insurance provider, Stapleford said he was able to cut the premiums in half, which reflects some changes in benefits.

Teachers in Tuscarora, like those in the Greencastle-Antrim District, get full health-insurance benefits for themselves and their families at no cost, Stapleford said.

The board's four-year contract with the district's 184 teachers expires today. Talks are under way for a new contract, Stapleford said.

This time the board wants the teachers to pay some of their health-insurance costs, he said.

"The board has drawn a line in the sand on this," he said.

Stapleford also said that Richard Lipella, the district's business manager, has been hired by the Greencastle-Antrim School District to replace Needy.

Last week, school board members in Waynesboro adopted a $38.6 million budget that will raise local property taxes by 15 percent.

The budget calls for a 9-mill increase in the tax rate, the highest ever passed in the district, one board member said. It brings the new tax rate to 68.12 mills.

Two of the board's nine members voted against the budget.

Two mills will raise revenue for the capital reserve fund to pay for future building projects. In recent years, the board was setting aside 1 mill in its capital reserve account but it is facing a growing need to renovate and modernize its school buildings.

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