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Waynesboro Area School Board to seek permission to raise property taxes beyond index

January 25, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Area School Board will seek state permission to raise property taxes beyond an index that would've limited any increase to less than 1.8 percent.

The seven school board members in attendance at Tuesday's meeting voted unanimously to seek exemptions based on retirement costs and debt. Superintendent James Robertson said there are other exemptions the district might meet.

"The exemptions we do know (we can get) would be about 3.3 mills over the 1.51 mills" allowed by the Act 1 index, he said.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 assessed property value. The average homeowner in the Waynesboro Area School District pays about $17 per mill of taxes.

Under Act 1, the state releases a base index each year determined from average weekly wages and the federal employment cost index. The amount for each school district varies slightly because of their aid ratios.

For Waynesboro in 2011-12, the school board could raise taxes 1.51 mills, or 1.8 percent, without seeking state, court or voter approval.

Calling it the "prudent" option, board member Chris Lind made a motion the board go to the state for exemptions.

Board members emphasized they are not necessarily raising taxes between 1.51 and 4.81 mills for the next fiscal year. They said they're trying to keep all possible options available.

"We will do everything in our power to keep the tax increase at a level people can live with, but we're dealing with a very challenging set of circumstances," board member Billie Finn said.

As part of the vote, the district will be required to present a preliminary budget to the public soon. Business Administrator Caroline Dean said she is anticipating some difficulties transferring data from a computer system to state form, but the budget should be available for public review in about a week.

Robertson said there are questions about federal funding called EdJobs and the amount of state subsidies now that stimulus funds are expiring. His early numbers show total expenditures and revenues around $50 million, with a $788,000 deficit anticipated.

He said costs should be mostly at or below the current year's budgeted amount, except for increasing health care premiums and retirement system contributions.

The board meeting continued late into the evening Tuesday as the board met in a closed-doors session. Board President Ed Wilson delayed all public comment for non-agenda items until after the executive session.

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How they voted ...

Bonnie Bachtell — yes

Sherry Cline — yes

Billie Finn — yes

Pat Heefner — yes

Chris Lind — yes

K. Marilyn Smith — yes

Ed Wilson — yes

Firmadge Crutchfield — absent

Leland Lemley — absent

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