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School tax increase trimmed in Chambersburg

June 09, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The tax increase in the 2006-07 budget for the Chambersburg Area School District has been trimmed to 3.68 mills, slightly less than the 4.27-mill increase that was projected in the preliminary $89 million budget approved in May.

The increase will mean an additional $47.84 in real estate taxes on a property with a market value of $100,000, said Business Manager Rick Vensel. The mill rate beginning July 1 will be 70.68 mills, he said Wednesday before a public hearing on the budget. The taxes on a $100,000 property will be $919 in 2006-07, he said.

One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property. Within the school district, 1 mill will generate $575,415 in taxes, an increase of more than $22,000 over 2005-06.

"My bills are going up. My taxes are going up ... What am I going to live on?" Julius Bernhardt, 89, of Fayetteville, Pa., said at Wednesday's public hearing. Bernhardt said he and his wife live on Social Security.

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School Board President Craig Musser said the board will discuss a plan to assist low-income residents at its June 14 meeting. The board will vote on final approval of the budget at that meeting as well.

Incoming superintendent Joseph Padasak said the real estate tax increase will be the lowest in Franklin County in 2006-07, but there is at least one looming financial issue facing the district.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in salaries and wages, although the district's contract with the Chambersburg Area Education Association is due to expire June 30 and Doug Shatzer, president of the teachers union, said contract talks stalled last month.

"A lot of them feel unappreciated by the board and the community," Shatzer said of the district's more than 500 teachers. Nothing has been settled in prior negotiating sessions, he said.

Vensel said the budget includes $485,000 more for special education and $350,000 to staff the comprehensive high school for Chambersburg students at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

This coming year, Chambersburg career and technology students are scheduled to spend the entire year at the center taking career and academic courses, while students from the county's other five districts will continue to spend one semester there and one at their home schools.

A public meeting on the change in attendance at the center will be Monday at 7 p.m. in the Chambersburg Area Senior High School auditorium, Padasak said.

The district did realize a savings of about $340,000 in health-care costs with its insurance provider, Vensel said. The district also is seeing growth of about 4 percent in real estate tax revenues, in part because of development in the area and a higher impact aid from Letterkenny Army Depot, a payment in lieu of taxes from that federal facility, he said.

Local revenues from real estate and earned income taxes and other sources are projected to be $4.9 million higher than this year, according to the budget. State subsidies for instruction, special education, transportation and other programs are projected to be about $2 million higher, according to the budget outline.

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