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CASD board limits tax increases

January 29, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - What the 2009-10 budget for the Chambersburg Area School District contain remains to be seen, but the School Board voted 7-2 Wednesday to limit any real estate tax increase to 4.9 percent, the index set for the district by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The resolution commits the district to keeping any increase at or below that figure, which would be approximately 4 mills, Business Manager Steve Dart said. The current tax rate is 80.98 mills, or $80.98 on every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.

The 4.9 percent index could have been exceeded had the district applied for available exceptions for new construction and special education totaling about $1.5 million, or about 2.5 mills more in taxes, Dart said.

The move is a fiscal roll of the dice for the district, which does not yet know what education subsidies Gov. Ed Rendell will include in his proposed state budget, set to be unveiled on Tuesday. The deadline to apply for the exceptions is today.

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"I am not sure the increase of the index will be sufficient to balance the district's final budget," said board member Renee Sharpe, who voted against the resolution.

Board member Lori Leedy, who also voted no, raised the possibility that Rendell could propose less in state subsidies than districts received for 2008-09.

The district applied for exceptions for 2008-09 which would have allowed it to exceed the cap set last year, but did not use them.

"Economic times were a lot different last year," Leedy said.

This year's budget is $102.8 million. The 2009-10 budget will have to account for $1.3 million in teacher, staff and administration pay increases which are subject to contracts.

Board President Stanley Helman and members Carl Barton, Anne Boryan, David Sciamanna, Norman Blowers, Fred Rice and Joseph Tosten voted for the resolution.

Had the board applied for the exceptions, it would have had to submit a preliminary budget to the state for its review and approval, said Director of Information Services Sylvia Rockwood. The district now has until May 31 to come up with a tentative final budget, which must be approved by June 30.

While the districts have until June 30, Boryan said the state does not hold itself to the same deadline. In recent years, its budgets have gone weeks or months past deadline before being approved.

Whether the district did or did not apply for exceptions, Sharpe said she still wants the district to keep any tax increase at or below the 4.9 percent.

Sharpe and Leedy should not be seen as "tax and spend" board members because of their votes, Helman said.

"Their position is they want to be more cautious," Helman said. "Come September or October, we'll tell you who's right."

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