Tax hike is one option in Seneca Valley

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Seneca Valley officials say they are keeping their options open when it comes to the rate in which they can increase property taxes next school year.

The district's preliminary budget was introduced Monday and it projects a $2.8 million shortfall.

School director James Nickel questioned whether the district should seek special exceptions through Act I that would allow Seneca Valley to increase taxes above the current inflationary index.

"With this projected deficit we might be able to look at the expense side and stay in the 2.2-mill index," he said.

Lynn Burtner, district business administrator, said no tax increase could mean dipping into the district's $12.3 million fund balance and other cuts. And, she said, raising taxes by 2.2 mills, the current inflationary index, would still leave a $1.7 million shortfall.

Applying for special exceptions through the state may allow the district to cover the shortfall with a tax increase, she said, adding that to cover the entire $2.8 million would mean a 5.5-mill tax increase. One mill of tax brings in about $512,000.

Ms. Burtner noted that the preliminary budget numbers will change because the amount of the state subsidy is not known yet.

The district had to introduce a proposed budget without knowing state subsidies because of the time frame outlined in Act I, the taxpayer relief act. The act requires budgets, which may raise property taxes above a district's inflationary index, to be on display by mid-January this year.

Seneca Valley superintendent Tracy Vitale urged the board to seek the special exceptions because there are too many unknown factors right now.

"I don't think it's so good to tie your hands so early [by limiting a tax increase to 2.2 mills]. At this point, we don't know the state subsidy, how many retirements there will be or what courses students will choose in the next couple of months," she said.

Ms. Vitale added that the district isn't bound to increase taxes even if it is granted the exceptions by the state.

"There is no harm in applying for the exceptions and saying no later," school board member Jason Wehrle said.

education - neigh_north

Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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