Mt. Lebanon school board approved the district's proposed 2013-14 budget on Monday.
The budget, which at this point calls for more than $83 million in expenditures and a property tax increase of 0.54 mills, will be on public display for the next month. The board will vote on the final version at its May 20 meeting.
In the meantime, administrators continue to seek avenues for savings, while board members consider whether to draw from the district's fund balance as a way to mitigate the tax increase. The proposed budget calls for leaving the surplus money intact.
Monday's measure passed by a 6-3 vote. Opposing were board members Scott Goldman, Dale Ostergaard and Dan Remely.
Mr. Goldman continued to urge reducing the impact on taxpayers. He contended that the board hasn't seriously discussed "hard" issues that would save considerable amounts of money, such as the possible closing of a school.
"I don't think it's sustainable," he said about taxes rising each year.
Mr. Ostergaard also has cautioned against passing costs on to taxpayers, saying many have expressed concern. He said some concessions could be needed from district employees to reduce expenditures.
"Boards of the future are going to have to take a hard look at our bargaining units," he said.
Other board members asserted their support for maintaining Mt. Lebanon's academic standards.
"We cannot lose sight of the fact of what is the most important thing to our community," Lawrence Lebowitz said.
Board member Mary Birks agreed.
"We need to be very careful what we do, for our future prospects as well," she said.
Regarding Mt. Lebanon's expenditures, board member Jo Posti said the district's budget has increased 13.7 percent during the past five years. Comparable districts in the area -- including Upper St. Clair, North Allegheny, South Fayette, Peters Township, Pine-Richland and Quaker Valley -- have experienced higher rates of increase, according to her research.
The actual amount of Mt. Lebanon's tax increase will be adjusted to account for Allegheny County's property reassessment for 2013. When that information will be available remains unknown, said Janice Klein, director of business.
Meanwhile, the district is embarking on a fundraising campaign as a means to boost revenue.
Last month, the board approved hiring Pursuant Ketchum of Dallas as capital campaign counsel in the district's effort to seek donations from local residents and Mt. Lebanon alumni. On Monday, Pursuant Ketchum vice presidents Elliott Oshry and Allison Lewis-Lodhi spoke to the board about their initial experiences working with the district.
"I've already seen how committed the community is to education. I hope you recognize that you have a fantastic community to work with," Ms. Lewis-Lodhi said.
The consultants have targeted raising $6 million during a nine-month campaign. They are helping to advertise for an experienced campaign manager, whom the district will hire to spearhead the effort.
The district is looking for volunteers to become involved with the campaign. An interest form will be posted on the district's website -- www.mtlsd.org -- by the end of the week.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: email@example.com.