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Tuscarora residents face tax increase in proposed budget

June 11, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - An owner of an average-priced home in the Tuscarora School District will pay an additional $175 if the school board approves a preliminary budget Monday to fund the schools next year.

Richard Kerr, business manager for the district, said the board's proposed budget for 2005-06 is $26.5 million, up $1.5 million over the current year's appropriation.

The increase, if the budget gets final approval, will require a 12.5-mill increase in the tax rate. The board will discuss the budget again Monday night and will hold another work session before adopting it, Board President Jeffrey L. Spidel said.

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The budget has to be approved by June 30.

Teacher salaries and health insurance premiums are driving up the budget, Kerr said. Insurance premiums are going up more than 31 percent next year, or about $700,000, he said.

The board and teachers have been in contract negotiations for more than a year. The teachers have been working without a contract since the last one expired in June 2004.

Spidel said the teachers have agreed to pay a share of their health-care costs, but no agreement has been made on the amount.

Another factor in the mill-rate increase stems from a decision by the board over the last three years to spend down its year-end reserve balance rather than raise taxes to balance the budget, Spidel said.

"You could look at it a couple of ways," Spidel said. "We gave a tax break for a few years. We didn't think it was right to sit on a reserve of several million dollars and raise taxes. Some people could say we shouldn't have done that."

Now, the board has no choice but to raise taxes, he said.

Ten teachers are leaving the system at the end of this school year, and Kerr said as many as nine may not be replaced.

"It will cause a reduction in our course offerings and there will be some bigger classes," he said. Some teachers will be moved around, he said.

Spidel said the board will consider equally the teaching needs on each education level - elementary, middle and high school.

The district also is paying for major renovations to two elementary schools and the middle school.

The board floated a $20 million bond issue to pay for the projects.

Kerr said the owner of an average-priced home in the district pays about $1,075 in school taxes per year under the current rate.

Each mill, which represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property, brings in about $131,000 to the district.

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