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MARION CENTER: School directors approve 3 mill tax increase

by on June 24, 2014 10:55 AM

MARION CENTER — Real estate taxes in the Marion Center Area School District will increase 3 mills as the school directors prepare to deal with annual pension contributions that will climb to over $1 million in the next two years.

The 3 mill increase approved by school directors Monday will also support a 2014-15 general fund budget totaling $23,405,484, up from the current general fund of $22,355,198, an increase of about 4.6 percent.

Each mill of real estate tax generates about $53,688 for the district. The additional 3 mills will add about $40 to the tax bill of the average homestead owner in the district.

The increase will take the district’s real estate tax to 107.48 mills. Other taxes in the district will remain the same: 0.85 percent on earned income and 0.50 percent on real estate transfers.

Before Monday’s vote, school board President Gregg Sacco said some district residents may not like the increase, but it’s not unreasonable, he said, given the rising contributions the district will have to make to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System in coming years. The district’s contribution to PSERS will climb to more than $863,000 in 2014-15; to more than $1,087,000 in 2015-16; to more than $1.2 million in 2016-17; and to more than $1.3 million in 2017-18.

“We’re trying to be prudent,” district Superintendent Dr. Frank Garritano said of the tax increase. “It makes it less of a risk for us in the future.”

Richard Martini, the district’s business manager, said that even with the increase, the average taxpayer in the district will be paying nearly the same amount as nine years ago, due to the state’s homestead exemption, which will save property owners more than $209 on their bills for 2014-15.

According to Martini, the average taxpayer in the district paid a little more than $715 in the 2005-06 school year, and will pay a little more than $727 in 2014-15.

“The school district wanted to plan for the future, they wanted to be pro-active in mitigating that future (PSERS) expense,” Martini said. “The pension problem is a long-term issue.”

The directors, Martini said, were very cooperative in discussing various scenarios for reaching budget and tax base proposals, and Martini and Garritano agreed the directors made some very good operational decisions.

The 2014-15 budget passed on a 6-1 vote. Directors Sacco, Justin Elkin, Charles Glasser, Charles LaVan, Robert Neese and Robert Young voted in favor of the spending plan. Director Karen Risinger cast the lone dissenting vote. Directors Ron Oswald and Tony Moretti were absent.

The tax structure plan with the 3 mill increase was passed unanimously by the seven directors present.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Kristy Hopper, president of the Marion Center Area Education Association, and Garritano thanked Donna Bruder-Smith, who was attending her final school board meeting as an employee of the district.

Bruder-Smith, the district’s elementary principal for more than 14 years, will retire June 29, ending a 36-year career as a teacher and school administrator. She joined the Marion Center district in January 2000.

In other action the directors:

• Approved increases of 15 cents in the cost of school lunches and 10 cents in the cost of school breakfasts. New prices will be $1.30 for paid elementary and high school breakfasts; $2.40 for paid elementary lunch; $2.65 for paid high school lunch; 30 cents for reduced elementary and high school breakfast; and 40 cents for reduced elementary and high school lunch.

• Accepted the resignation of Pam Stadtmiller as a high school secretary and agreed to add her to the support personnel substitute list.

• Moved Casey (Minich) McAninch from part-time to full-time employment as an elementary reading teacher at a salary of $44,821.

• Extended the employment contract of business manager Martini to June 30, 2019.

• Approved supplemental contracts with Jonathan Schaller, for $7,166, as the band director; with Becca Blashock and Bethany Cheek as assistant band directors, at $2,284 each; and with Jamie McGinnis, for $2,000, as band front advisor.

• Approved a contract with Don Seanor for $3,350 to be the assistant athletic director.

• Approved supplemental contracts with the following head coaches: Kristen Yeomans, junior high volleyball, $2,250; Jon Higbee, junior high boys basketball, $3,150; Brad Smith, junior high wrestling, $4,485; and Jacque Miller, junior high girls basketball, $3,000.

• Approved supplemental contracts with the following assistant coaches: Katie Proch, junior high volleyball, $2,250; Dustin Redilla, junior high boys basketball, $2,750; Shania Hadden, cheerleading, $1,500; Nathan Johns, varsity boys basketball, $3,500; Jeff Lyons, varsity wrestling, $3,250; Don Fulmer, junior high wrestling, $3,460; Stephanie Canton, swimming, $3,250; Justin Hill, varsity girls basketball, $3,250; and Travis Trimble, junior high girls basketball, $2,750.

• Approved Dr. William Zewe’s proposal to provide dental exams at the rate of $5 per student, and Dr. J. Lindsay Park’s proposal to provide physical exams for $2,500.

• Agreed to admit the Purchase Line School District as a member of the Indiana County Technology Center, conditional on approval of the other ICTC members. The cost to the Purchase Line district to join will be $1,021,234, payable over 20 years.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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