Proposed budget would raise taxes by 2.75 mills

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Seneca Valley school board members say they have done everything they can to keep property taxes down this year, but it still isn't enough.

Board members introduced the 2013-14 school budget Monday with a 2.75-mill property tax increase.

Board members blame retirement and special education funding mandates for the bulk of the $1.4 million shortfall in this year's $101 million budget.

Seneca Valley made a $5 million payment to the state employee retirement fund this year, and an $8 million payment is due next year, said Lynn Burtner, district business administrator.

Ms. Burtner also said the state subsidy for special education funding is the lowest it has been in five years.

"The state mandates these costs to us and allows us to do the dirty work of raising taxes," said board member Eric DiTullio.

But school board members say district administrators are doing all they can to keep expenses down.

"I know the approach of the board and the staff is to spend that tax revenue frugally. I believe the people who run this district spend that money as if it's their own and not in a bad way," said board member Jim Nickel.

Among this year's savings will be the elimination of three teaching positions and replacement of 14 retirees with lower-paid employees. Other cost-saving measures include a four-day work week during the summer months and a 10 percent cut to all discretionary accounts in the budget.

This comes after the district eliminated 15.5 teaching positions and four administrative positions and cut hours for support staff in last year's budget. They also increased student fees for athletics and clubs and will begin selling advertising on the district website to increase revenues.

There were a few bright spots this year with the value of a mill of property tax increasing from $515,000 to $525,000 because of development in the district and a $500,000 increase in earned income tax collection attributed to the new countywide collection system.

The board will vote June 17 on a final budget.

neigh_north

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


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