Taxes to rise 1.7 percent for North Hills schools
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Moments before North Hills school directors voted to adopt a $68,637,206 budget for 2012-13, board member Kathy Reid said, "Hopefully this budget passes. Shame on this board if it doesn't."
It passed by a 6-3 vote at the Monday legislative meeting. The budget increases expenses 2.9 percent.
The 0.35-mill tax increase changes the rate to 21.26 mills for property owners in Ross and West View. The 1.7 percent increase in taxes will generate an additional $735,000 in annual revenue.
The owner of a $100,000 home will see a property tax increase of $35. The median value of a home is valued at $109,000, according to the district.
Finance committee chair Edward Wielgus said federal stimulus money and retirement incentives were an effective means to prevent or curtail tax increases in the past, but those resources are no longer available.
"If you do not raise taxes, you better come up with serious ideas on how you are going to maintain costs," Mr. Wielgus said before the vote.
But board member Tom Baker opposed the budget, as he made a campaign promise last fall to not raise taxes.
"I voted no to raise the millage because of the sincere promise I made to our neighbors in 2011," Mr. Baker said.
"In knocking on a few thousand doors and calling hundreds of residents on the phone, they were very clear: 'Please don't raise our taxes anymore.' "
Mr. Baker said the budget could have been passed without a tax increase by eliminating $756,589 toward a future air conditioning project in the junior high building.
David Hall, director of finance and operations for the district, said the air conditioning project would cost about $4.8 million plus "soft costs" such as architects, construction managers, licenses, permits and state fees, which would ultimately push project costs to about $6.2 million.
Mr. Wielgus said he was concerned about rising costs he referred to as "out of [the board's] hands," in statewide pensions which are "underfunded by $30 billion for the next five to seven years," in addition to medical insurance costs and rising charter school obligations.
Mr. Hall commented on the serious consequences the board could face in future years if they declined to raise taxes this year.
"Realistically, unless you want to make $10 million in cuts five years from now, you have to raise taxes this year," Mr. Hall said.
According to Pennsylvania Act 1 Index, a school district may only raise taxes by the amount of inflation each year, effectively capping the amount a district can raise property taxes on residents in a given year.
This year, the Act 1 Index was 1.7 percent, up from 1.4 percent in 2011.
The budget includes a $335,000 increase for medical insurance for district personnel and more than $1.2 million in mandated increases in retirement costs.
Salaries and benefits comprise a significant portion of the budget, totaling more than $27 million for regular instruction personnel at the elementary and secondary levels and more than $6 million for special education personnel.
The board also unanimously approved a Homestead/Farmstead property tax deduction of $122.75 for homeowners in the district who have an owner-occupied residence and who have filed a homestead exemption application with Allegheny County.
First Published June 7, 2012 5:54 am