South Fayette schools tax rate increases

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South Fayette school directors approved Tuesday raising property taxes but rejected the idea of student activity fees.

School board members adopted a $37.6 million budget for 2012-13 that raises the tax rate by nearly one mill, to a total of 28.8241 mills.

The 0.9911-mill increase will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $99 more a year, bringing the total tax bill to $2,882.

"That is a painful pill, but I think collectively we did the right thing," Vice President Teresa Burroughs said. "We do have to think about our needs today as well as moving forward."

Board members had considered charging pupils to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports, but no one made a motion Tuesday to enact the proposed fee, which would have generated about $25,000 in revenues.

"I don't think we can raise taxes and then go charge a fee on top of it," board member Alan Vezzi said.

The board voted 6-2 to adopt the budget. Those who dissented were Todd Petrillo and Bill Sray, who said retired residents could not afford to pay more taxes.

By phone, Bill Newcomer and Alex Czaplicki voted "yes," along with Frank Morelli, Paul Brinsky, Mr. Vezzi and Mrs. Burroughs, who ran the meeting in the absence of president Len Fornella.

Superintendent Bille Rondinelli acknowledged school principals for cooperating with cost-cutting efforts and thanked the board "for having the courage to make a very difficult decision at a very difficult time."

The tax increase is the third in as many years.

School officials said they are playing catch-up because for several years in the past, the tax rate had been held or rolled back when it should have been raised to accommodate rapid enrollment growth.

"They [the public] think we're going crazy raising taxes and not understanding that our hands are tied," Mr. Morelli said.

District-wide, the tax increase is expected to generate about $825,000 for general expenses, retirement contributions and special education expenses.

Finance director Brian Tony said the district's required contributions to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System is expected to rise by 42 percent next year.

With that figure in mind, the board also voted to allocate $1 million from the budget's fund balance for future increases related to retirement and other post-employment benefits.

Mr. Tony said the total impact of building the district's new intermediate school equates to 3.65 mills.

The approximately $30 million school for grades three to five is under construction on the Old Oakdale Road campus. The district plans to borrow additional funds in December to help finish the project.

education - neigh_west

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published June 28, 2012 5:30 AM


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