UNITED: School taxpayers to see increase of $20 per year
EAST WHEATFIELD TOWNSHIP — The average homeowner in United School District will see an approximate $20 tax increase after board members on Tuesday adopted the final fiscal year budget for 2014-15 that calls for a 1.7 mill increase.
In a 7-1 vote, directors approved the budget with revenues of $19,360,678 and expenses of $20,503,610, leaving the district to pull $1,142,932 from its fund balance. Board member Eric Matava voted against the motion. Robert Lichtenfels was absent.
Matava said he ran for his school board seat “on the premise that I would do everything I can to keep taxes as low as possible, while recognizing that there may be times when it is necessary to raise additional revenue.” He said he didn’t agree with the 1.7 mill increase, but emphasized that all of the board members “worked very hard in crafting this budget, but in the end it is up to each individual board member to determine what is right for the taxpayers and the students of this district.”
Matava said that after “carefully examining the numbers,” he felt the board could have made adjustments in expenditures to avoid “the additional burden on the taxpayers.”
“For example … I voted against a motion relating to the improvement of the audio system in the high school auditorium because I felt that it was unnecessary at this time,” he said. “Coincidentally, the cost of this upgrade is approximately equivalent to the amount of additional revenue that will be gained as a result of the tax increase.” The board approved at a special meeting in April improvements to the audio system in the amount of $71,700.
The 1.7 mills brings approximately $70,000 to the district, finance director G. Thomas Kalinyak said at May’s meeting. Board President Don Davis reiterated Tuesday that the 1.7 mills was agreed upon by a previous board to cover the renovation project at the elementary school, and would result in the budget increasing at least by that much each year for six years and by at least 1.4 mills for one year in order to accommodate the bond payments to cover the cost of construction.
The district is in the third of those six years, and Davis said last month it’s something the board could revisit every year “as different financial things come in.”
Also at last month’s meeting, Superintendent Barbara Parkins cited predicted level-funded basic education funds, those that support teaching and learning; special-education dollars that have not been increased for the last several years; lack of school construction dollars for building and renovation projects — in particular, PlanCon reimbursement funds for the elementary renovation project; and rising health care costs and pension contributions.
The board set the new millage rate at 100.45 mills, or $10.045 per $100 of assessed valuation of taxable property.
Board members also approved a per capita tax of $5; a per capita tax of $5 on each inhabitant or resident of the district; an earned income and net profits tax (wage tax) at a rate of 0.85 percent beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2015; a real estate transfer tax at the rate of 0.5 percent; and a $5 local services tax.
The board also set the discount rate of 2 percent and the penalty rate at 10 percent on the real property tax and both per capita taxes.
Also Tuesday, directors approved a motion allowing Purchase Line School District to become a member of the Indiana County Technology Center. The cost to Purchase Line is $1,021,234, payable over a period of 20 years in equal annual installments of $51,062 without interest.
Purchase Line is the last Indiana County-based district to join ICTC, Davis said. The district has to be approved by all the other districts in the county, and then approved by a majority of all the board members of those districts.
Purchase Line students currently attend ICTC, Davis said, but at the nonmember rate. Pending finalization of the agreement between the district and ICTC, Purchase Line will continue to pay tuition at the nonmember rate, and, once the deal is finalized, will be credited with the difference between the member rate and nonmember rate.