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Greencastle school board discusses lightening tax burden

May 21, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Taxes in the Greencastle-Antrim School District are poised to climb between now and 2013, keeping the school board constantly searching for ways to hold the tax burden to a minimum.

A mix of the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) debt burden, a proposed multimillion dollar campus renovation and declining state revenue forced the board to adopt a preliminary budget that includes the Act 1 mandated maximum tax increase for the coming year.

On Thursday, the board discussed lessening the projected tax burden by capping the renovation project cost and increasing athletic admission and "pay-to-play" activity fees.

Originally projected to cost $54 million, the renovation project included renovations and expansion that would accommodate increased enrollment, Superintendent Greg Hoover said.

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Each building on campus would be either renovated or expanded, according to the first plan considered by the district's facilities development committee.

Staring down an estimated tax deficit of 15.26 mills for the life of the project, the board has taken a critical look at its wish list.

"At the end of the day, we need to decide on a figure we can borrow that taxpayers can afford, sit down with the architect and see what we can get for the money," Board President Arnie Jansen said.

After an hour of discussion Thursday, the board asked Hoover to inquire what Architect EI Associates of Harrisburg, Pa., could do for $21 million, less than half the original estimate.

Some directors wanted to keep as much of the project intact, arguing that renovating some now and some later was inefficient.

District Business Manager Richard Lipella said he projected PSERS to require as much as an 11 mill tax increase to fund Greencastle's state-mandated contribution, prompting discussion of ways to generate additional revenue.

With some of the lowest admission fees in the Mid-Penn Conference, Hoover suggested the board consider raising admission to Blue Devil sporting events.

Many numbers hit the floor for discussion, but the board agreed that an increase was necessary.

Adults who attend high school games could pay as much as $6 for admission to a football game and $5 for other sports, based on discussion Thursday.

No action was taken, but Hoover said he will prepare a fee schedule for review and possible adoption at the next board meeting.

Parents of involved students could see more of their money in district coffers if the board also raises the activities fee, know also as "pay to play."

All high school students pay $10 to participate in clubs, sports and other extra-curricular activities, Principal Ed Rife said.

Lipella said a 100 percent increase in that fee, from $10 to $20, was factored into the preliminary budget adopted April 15.

A $20 fee for all students might not be the final amount, with some possibly paying less and others paying more.

Board member Eric Holtzman suggested having relief for students in the free and reduced-price lunches program.

Board member Joel Fridgen suggested that some of the more-expensive activities that require travel, like football and marching band, incur a fee of as much as $50.

District administrators were asked for their expertise in drafting a proposed fee schedule for consideration at an upcoming board meeting.

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