Preliminary budget would raise Mt. Lebanon schools taxes almost a mill

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Mt. Lebanon school board plans next week to approve a preliminary budget while acknowledging that much work needs to be done before a final 2014-15 spending plan is adopted in the spring.

The preliminary version must gain early approval so that the district can apply for an exception to the index for property tax increases set by Pennsylvania’s Act 1 of 2006, the Taxpayer Relief Act.

The document at this point lists a 0.99-mill increase, which would bring the property tax to 23.6 mills, up 4.38 percent. Act 1’s index is 2.1 percent.

The budget numbers, though, are subject to change.

“What is before you now is unlikely where it will end up,” Elaine Cappucci, board president, said at Monday’s discussion meeting. Board members have not yet addressed a potential tax rate, she said.

Janice Klein, director of business, said figures for key revenues and expenditures still are to be determined, including state funding for public schools and district staffing needs.

“There are so many things we don’t know at this point,” she said, noting that more accurate numbers should be available in a month or two.

Among the increasing costs facing the district are employee benefits and contributions to the state Public School Employees’ Retirement System. The district’s 2013 bond issue to complete the Mt. Lebanon High School renovation project is expected to add 0.2 mills to property taxes for 2014-15.

The preliminary budget is available for viewing at www.mtlsd.org/District/Budget/.

In other business:

■ The board discussed plans to appoint Janney Capital Markets as the district’s official financial adviser. The company has been working with the district since 2006 on bond issues and refinancing activities.

With its appointment, Janney will be the only financial services firm allowed to approach the school district about opportunities for refinancing.

“It gives them the right to come directly to us if they see something they think we should be aware of,” Ms. Klein said. “I believe it’s prudent to have someone out there looking into our bonds. This at least gives us information coming in from someone who’s very well aware of our financial situation.”

The board will vote on Janney’s appointment during Monday's meeting.

■ Also on Monday, the board will consider awarding a $73,328 contract for design and construction of a trophy display case in the new high school athletic building.

Viking Woodworking LLC of Pittsburgh’s South Side was the only bidder for the project, which will encompass the athletic building’s front hallway.

“This was a design-build project. Some of these woodworking companies don’t have design staff,” explained Rick Marciniak, district project manager. “This is a pretty fair price for the amount of work they’re going to do.”

Board member Dan Remely disagreed, calling the bid “a huge amount of money.” He questioned whether the project could be done in-house through the high school’s woodshop program.

Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said the hope is that alumni eventually would cover the cost, perhaps through the district’s recently launched capital campaign.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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