Trinity School Board raises taxes 2 mills

June 20, 2013

Trinity Area School District property owners will see a 2-mill increase in their taxes next year.

On Thursday, the school board adopted by a 5-3 vote a $46.8 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Business manager David Russo, who had presented at the June 6 board meeting a possible spending plan that calls for a 2-mill property tax increase each year over the next eight years, said the additional revenue will help the school district pay for an annual a $6 million-a-year debt service it has incurred for construction, renovation and other expenditures in recent years.

The state Department of Education reimburses the district $1 million annually, but the district must cover the remainder of the loan over the next eight years.

Russo’s plan calls for the budget deficit to be addressed by a combination of revenue increases, personnel atttrition and furloughs and fiscal responsibility.

The average taxpayer will pay an additional $33 a year in property taxes.

“If we do nothing – no cutting, no raising taxes – and if everything stays the same except teacher salaries, staff salaries and benefits and a couple of odds and ends, in that scenario, our deficit grows and grows and grows and after the end of eight years, and even after using the fund balance to offset it, we have a shortfall of $26 million,” said Russo. “What that means is to make that number “zero,” we need to do something. In eight years, it’s paid off, so in year nine, we have $5 million freed up. The bottom line is that we have nothing to help us get through years one through eight.”

Directors Jenene Hupp, Penny Caleffe, Jennifer Morgan, Tamara Salvatori and Kerrie McIlvaine voted in favor of the budget, while Colleen Interval, Henry Clemens and Scott Day opposed.

Clemens said he is concerned about the financial impact the tax increase will have on district residents who are on a low or fixed income.

“If we’re going to ask the public for a 2-mill increase when the county’s going to be going around on assessments shortly, I think it should start with the top down here at this school. I think that everybody should chip in here.”

The final budget raises the tax rate to 105 mills. It marks the first time in eight years the school district has raised the millage rate.

One mill generates about $215,000 and reduces the amount the district has to use from its fund balance by about $430,000. The district will use about $450,000 from the fund balance, leaving a projected fund balance of approximately $2 million. The school district has about $1 million in capital reserve.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in salaries and a 2 percent increase in benefits.

In other business, the board:

• Voted unanimously to rescind its student participation fee, or pay-to-play, for high school students to take part in sports and extracurricular activities.

• Hired Christopher Groesch as head boys lacrosse coach at a salary of $4,682. Board members approved a 3-year contract for Groesch.

• Furloughed four special education service aides.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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