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Chambersburg Area School District approves budget

June 13, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board voted 6-2 Wednesday night to approve a 2007-08 budget that raises real estate taxes 6.23 mills and earned income taxes by 0.7 percent, includes a $384 Act 1 homestead exclusion for homeowners and eliminates the $10 per capita tax.

The $97,170,818 budget is about $1 million higher than the $96,229,243 preliminary budget first proposed in January. The 2006-07 budget is approximately $88.75 million, according to district figures.

Even with the Act 1 exclusion, the net result for renters and some property owners will be higher taxes when the budget takes effect July 1.

"I'm here to mildly protest the lack of information to the public," said John Hull, a resident of Greene Township who owns a home and a rental property. "I was shocked to find out there was no tax break forthcoming on the rental property."

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Hull said the higher earned income tax his household will pay will cost him about $300 more than he will save through the homestead exclusion.

"A lot of us who voted for the referendum might have voted the other way" had they been better informed of the consequences, he said.

The Chambersburg Area School District was the only one of six in Franklin County and only a handful across the state to approve an Act 1 tax shifting referendum in the May 15 primary, raising the earned income tax paid to the school district from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent in exchange for the homestead and farmstead exclusions.

Out of more than 8,000 votes cast, the referendum passed with a 260-vote margin, according to county Election Board results.

Under an Act 1 cap set by the state, Chambersburg could have raised its property tax from the current 70.68 mills to 77.05 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.

The preliminary budget approved earlier this year called for increasing taxes 5.23 mills to 75.91 mills, but last month, the board authorized the administration to include another mill in taxes split evenly between a technology reserve fund and recouping revenue lost from getting rid of the per capita tax on adults.

Board member Stanley Helman attempted to amend the motion to approve the budget by removing the 0.5 mills for the technology fund, asking that money left over from the construction of Scotland Elementary School be used to fund new technology for the time being. The amendment was defeated on a 6-2 vote.

Board member David Sciamanna said he did not want to see the district renovate the high school and not have money available to put needed technology inside.

Board President Thomas Orndorf and board members Renee Sharpe, Lori Leedy, William Tolleson and Sciamanna voted in favor of the final budget. Helman and board member Fred Rice voted against the package.

"For the projects and things we're doing in the district, it's the minimum," Technology Director Mark Long said of the $303,000 per year the 0.5 mills will raise. The budget included technology costs for a renovated and expanded high school at $2.2 million, about $1.3 million of which would be paid for out of general funds rather than the bond issue for construction, Long said.

Technology for the new Fayetteville and Gordy elementary schools will cost another $966,000, according to the budget.

A similar amount of money would be raised by the 0.5 mills to replace revenue lost by eliminating the per capita tax, according to budget figures.

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