Greencastle board OKs school budget

June 21, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER |

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — It took several attempts and quite a bit of discussion, but the Greencastle-Antrim School Board passed its 2012-13 budget Thursday with a one-mill real estate tax increase.

The school board approved the district’s $32,964,755 budget for the school year, which will raise property taxes to 98.9 mills.

That means homeowners in the Greencastle-Antrim School District will pay $22 more in property taxes next year.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The initial budget item on the board’s agenda called for a zero-mill increase, but that changed after board member Joel Fridgen gave an impassioned plea to his fellow board members.

He said that not raising taxes was being reckless with the district, given the out-of-control costs of the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.


Fridgen called Pennsylvania’s Act 1, which limits tax increases, a hammer that ties the hands of school districts.

He said school boards must financially plan for the future.

“A no-tax increase (vote) tonight means four years down the road, we will have cuts,” Fridgen said.

He said the Fannett-Metal School District cut its band and choir programs, and he didn’t want the same fate to happen to Greencastle-Antrim.

“My preference is to do a two-mill increase and dedicate it to PSERS,” Fridgen said.

A two-mill tax increase would bring in enough revenue to help fund the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System through 2015-16, Fridgen said.

“With Act 1, with no tax increase, we can devastate our school district,” Fridgen said. “Think long term. Think big picture.”

Others on the board, including board President Eric Holtzman, said for nine of the last 10 years, the district has raised taxes.

Holtzman said it was time to give taxpayers a break.

“We need to let the community catch its respective breath,” Holtzman said.

The board voted down Fridgen’s two-mill motion by a 5-4 vote, with Ken Haines, Brian Hissong, Eric Holtzman, Michael Still and Tracy Baer voting against the motion, and Fridgen, Melinda Cordell, Michael Shindle and William Thorne voting in favor.

Fridgen came back with a motion for a 1.5-mill increase, which was voted down by the same 5-4 vote.

Fridgen then made a motion to adopt the final budget with a one-mill tax increase.

The motion passed 5-4, with Fridgen, Cordell, Shindle, Still and Thorne voting in favor of the motion, and Baer, Haines, Hissong and Holtzman voting against it.

By a 9-0 vote, the board voted to transfer $500,000 from the more than $4.5 million fund balance to a fund reserved for the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.

In other action, the district has a new agreement with its 10 administrators for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The contract includes a 1 percent pay increase in the first six months of the first year and a 1 percent pay increase in the second six months of that year, with similar raises in the second year.

Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover also received the same pay increase schedule as the administrators.

The board approved the pay increase 7-2, with Haines and Still casting the dissenting votes.

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