School board sets deadline on taxes

February 21, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Area School Board has set March 13 as the date it will decide what options voters have concerning their 2007-08 taxes.

While the public hearing is three weeks away, the school board on Tuesday briefly debated the merits of the law that extends voters those options.

The legislators "need to go back to the drawing board for some real tax relief opposed to tax shifting," board member Leland Lemley said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has promised that Act 1 of 2006 will bring $1 billion worth of property tax cuts annually in exchange for gambling revenue, caps on school district spending and potential voter-approved increases in income taxes.


A tax commission mandated by Act 1 recommended in December 2006 that the district raise the earned income tax by 0.7 percent to create a $309 reduction in property taxes for owner-occupied properties. The school board has agreed to stay within a 4.4 percent cap on increased spending for the coming school year.

Act 1 has been touted for its benefits to senior citizens and farmers, while criticized for its effect on renters and the working poor.

"Anytime you are getting something for which you do nothing ... in my opinion, it's nothing more than welfare," Lemley said.

Lemley said it is the board's duty to educate the public about what homestead exclusions mean for young workers.

"Everyone in the community needs to know that if you say yes to this (ballot) referendum ... (your children and grandchildren) are going to pay part of your taxes for you," Lemley said. "It's asking one person on the street to pay more in taxes so a person down the street can pay less in taxes."

Ballots will have an interpretative statement, meaning "on the actual ballot, there will be an explanation to the voter for what they're voting on," Business Manager Caroline Dean said.

Act 1 deadlines mean the school board must accept, reject or modify the tax commission's recommendation on March 13. The hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m.

Lemley also spoke out against the potential placement of modular classrooms at Hooverville Elementary School, although the board, on an 8-1 vote, agreed to have an architect review the code compatibility of six units being made available by another school district. The board will proceed with the architect's review unless the administration discovers the fees to be exorbitant.

The architect also can look at the modular classrooms being decommissioned as part of the ongoing high school expansion and renovation, Superintendent Barry Dallara said.

Enrollment reports he provided show that there are 61 more elementary students in the district than in 1996-97, but fewer students overall.

"Any pressure that is being created on a building ... is not the result of a growing number of students coming in the district," Lemley said.

Dallara said that, more than anything, utilization of classrooms has changed due to extended-day kindergarten and special education constraints.

"Part of my frustration is that we started with $40 million for three schools," Lemley said, referring to debt incurred to renovate the middle and high schools and Summitview Elementary School. The board since has agreed to funnel $46 million into the high school project, which creates a new auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria there.

Despite educational program changes that affect classroom usage, enrollment shows that "we've still got less students using the gym, cafeteria and auditorium than we did in previous years," Lemley said. "For better or worse, we have this project, but we have a lot of other things that have got to be done."

The six modular classrooms have been offered with the Waynesboro district only bearing the cost of transportation, which is estimated to be $250,000.

The Herald-Mail Articles