Canon-McMillan adopts budget with tax increase

May 19, 2014

Canon-McMillan School Board adopted its final budget for the 2014-15 school year that includes a 1-mill increase for taxpayers in the district.

The board approved the $68.7 million budget 8-1 Monday evening, with board member Joseph Zupancic voting against the budget. The final budget raises the total millage rate from 107 to 108, which translates to an additional $10.90 per year for the average Canonsburg homeowner; $30 per year for the average Cecil homeowner and $25.70 per year for the average North Strabane homeowner.

The biggest factor in the budget is the contribution to Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which is estimated to cost an additional $1.4 million in 2014-15. There is also an expected 4.5 percent increase in the cost of health benefits for employees, said business manager Joni Mansmann.

Former board member Nick Cianelli spoke out against the increase and said taxpayers have enough to worry about with their own medical bills.

“You need to look at your constituency and see what maybe they’re up against,” Cianelli said. “When you negotiate with the employees here in the school district, you need to negotiate in good faith as it concerns the student and the taxpayer.”

The millage increase in the final budget was half-a-mill less than what the board approved in the preliminary budget in April. Mansmann said the district was able to reduce the increase of 1.5 mills to 1 mill because of personnel changes, and half a percentage point was shaved off from employee health benefits.

In addition to increased health care and retirement costs, the district also is anticipating a $30 million project to construct a new K-4 elementary school on Muse Elementary property. The board unanimously approved a resolution to allow Pittsburgh-based company HHSDR Architects-Engineers to prepare design drawings and develop a timeline for completion of the project.

The conceptual facilities plan, presented to the public last month, calls for the creation of one large elementary school to replace Muse, Cecil and First Street elementary schools. The building, which would be located on the 20 available acres beside the current Muse Elementary, would house up to 800 students. There is target occupancy date of 2016.

Daniels said the district most likely will not submit the project through the state’s PlanCon process, which allocates funding, due to the moratorium on new construction projects.

“We need the building and we can’t wait for the Department of Education to do away with the moratorium,” Daniels said. “We’re excited, and it’s necessary.”

Daniels said Muse Elementary would not be impacted during construction, and a separate access road would be used for that site.

Phase two of the conceptual facilities plan is expected to focus on the middle school, and it will likely be a more expensive endeavor than phase one.

A town hall meeting to gather public input on the new elementary building will be held at an undetermined date this fall.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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