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Pa. school board examines more spending requests

February 11, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board on Wednesday took another look at budget projections for the 2005-06 school year, this time with an additional $1.85 million in spending requests.

Last month, Business Manager Rick Vensel presented the board budget projections looking at what would be needed to maintain the current levels of programs. That projected expenditures at $75,892,153 versus revenues of $73,735,361.

The difference of $2,156,792 would require an increase of 3.97 mills to close the gap, according to Vensel's figures.

One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property. One mill brings in approximately $542,000 in tax revenues, according to district figures.

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An additional 1.82 mills will be needed for debt fund debt service for new construction as the district begins the first phase of a $116 million building program that includes a new high school, two new elementary schools and $3.8 million in mechanical upgrades to Faust Junior High School.

That would bring the total increase in real estate taxes to 5.79 mills before the board begins considering additional requests from departments and administrators. The list of 32 requests totaling $1.85 million reviewed Wednesday would require another 3.5 mills to fund, according to Superintendent Edwin Sponseller.

Three of those requests, for two special education aides, two elementary teachers and upgrades at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center totaling $267,000 have already been approved and will be in next year's budget, Vensel said.

If all the requests are funded, the tax rate, now at 62.53 mills, would increase more than 9 mills, according to the figures.

"That's the top end. I would not expect that to occur," Vensel said.

Requests also include several teaching, administrative and support positions, computer labs at Stevens and Buchanan elementary schools and new musical equipment for elementary and secondary schools as part of a five-year replacement program.

Gov. Ed Rendell delivered his budget address Wednesday and that included a smaller-than-anticipated increase in the basic instructional subsidy to the district, Vensel told the board. His initial projection for the subsidy was for a 2 percent increase, but the governor is proposing a 1.67 percent increase.

A budget has to be passed by the end of June, but the state has thrown another ingredient into the budget mix. As part of the state's school property tax relief bill passed last year, district's must decide by May 30 if they will participate in the program.

To do so, the board must vote to increase the earned income tax from 0.5 percent to 0.6 percent. If it does not, it will be ineligible to share in slot machine revenues to reduce property taxes.

That could mean the board will pass a final budget prior to the May 30 deadline, Vensel said.

The higher income tax would not go into effect until there is enough slot machine revenues to distribute to Pennsylvania's 501 school district for tax relief. Vensel said that might not happen until 2009.

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