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Waynesboro school budget includes tax hike

June 25, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Area School Board on Tuesday approved its 2008-09 operating budget, which becomes the district's first annual spending plan authorized to exceed $50 million.

To make up for a deficit from projected revenues, the board agreed to pull 2.5 mills from existing savings and impose an additional 3.5 mills of taxes on property owners. The budget was approved at $50.7 million, which includes two roof projects and a library software system previously kept separate from general budget discussions.

A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 assessed property value. A tax increase of 3.5 mills will translate into $60 of additional taxes for the average homeowner in the district, assuming the average home is assessed at about $17,000.

The total real estate tax rate for the coming year will be 82.59 mills, according to Tuesday's board action, which came on a 6-3 vote.

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Leland Lemley, who voted against the budget, mentioned the tax increase's impact on people already facing escalating gas, food and energy costs.

"We've got the $46 million high school now. ... Is the school district going to open up the high school as a shelter for those that lose their houses?" Lemley asked.

"I myself cannot approve additional burden on the people on fixed incomes who cannot make it now," said Ed Wilson, who also voted against the budget.

School administrators, in earlier budget discussions, said no single expenditure is expected to escalate substantially next year, but pointed to increased costs for cyber charter schools, natural gas and the Franklin County Career and Technology Center as factors in increased spending.

Stanley Barkdoll said the budget makes sense fiscally, since Act 1 of 2004 imposes caps on the amount by which a board can raise taxes in a given year. The Waynesboro board's tax increase is 1 mill less than the allowed amount.

"If you don't maintain the revenue stream related to cost-of-living increases, you do a disservice to the taxpayers," Barkdoll said.

Otherwise, the board could end up "in the hole" financially and find itself asking voters for more money. That would "put a taxing decision in the political arena," Barkdoll said.

Also, the board knows that energy costs will continue to increase and transportation contracts have yet to be negotiated, he said.

"I think the (budget review) process was flawed, and I think the board could cut a lot more," said Firmadge Crutchfield, the third vote against the budget.

He specifically mentioned possible cuts he thought could be made concerning the salaries for the district's approximately 30 classroom aides.

"We have the highest ratio of aides to teachers in the area," Crutchfield said.

Voting in favor of the budget were Barkdoll, K. Marilyn Smith, Chris Devers, Mindy Rouzer, John Fitz and Pat Heefner.

Heefner said that she would like the district's new superintendent to spend time focusing on energy savings. The school board is in the process of searching for a superintendent to replace Barry L. Dallara, who retired this spring.

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