3.79 mill property tax increase in offing in Peters
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Peters school directors inched closer Monday night to approving a new budget that calls for a 3.79-mill property tax increase, though some residents urged them to reconsider.
"We're headed toward a fiscal cliff," said resident Ron Boocks, who asked the board not to pass the tax increase. "Economic times are not good."
Mr. Boocks said he was concerned about online education usurping the public school system and said raising taxes right now would be a "terrible mistake."
Resident Carl Carenza agreed, saying he believes the district could cut expenses, especially for extracurricular activities and athletics.
District Superintendent Nina Zetty and business manager Dan Solomon pointed out that the district already has shaved $700,000 in expenses since the beginning of the year, in the face of enrollment increases and losses of nearly $1 million in state subsidies.
Class sizes have been increased, Ms. Zetty said, along with other cost-cutting measures, such as consolidating services, borrowing textbooks for new courses and charging students fees to participate in activities.
The district has one of the lowest cost-per-pupil rates in the state, Mr. Solomon said, at about $10,978. The state average is $13,869.
"We do appreciate what's going on with the economy," Ms. Zetty said. "We're doing everything in our power to cut what we can. We've tried to look under every stone to try to find ways to save money."
During a finance committee meeting Monday, the district heard other ways to save money, including extending and refinancing debt, which could generate an estimated $1.2 million in additional revenue each year, according to Mike Zubasic of PNC Capital Markets.
The board is expected to vote on the final budget at its June 25 meeting. The preliminary budget calls for $50.7 million in spending and the 3.79-mill tax hike, which would raise millage from the current 96.51 mills to 100.30 mills. The hike would represent an increase of about 3.5 percent on property owners' current bills.
A copy of the proposed budget is available at the district's website, www.ptsd.k12.pa.us.
The board also approved Monday the first reading of a new policy governing concussions suffered by student athletes.
The policy, crafted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, is in response to a new state law set to take effect July 1. It was developed to aid in the treatment, detection and prevention of concussions.
Among the provisions, only appropriate medical professionals -- not coaches -- are authorized to return athletes to play if a head injury or concussion is suspected.
A student athlete can be withdrawn from play by a coach, athletic trainer, physician or any official who believes a head injury may have been sustained.
The new policy won't take effect until the second reading, expected at the board's June 25 meeting.
The board discussed whether to require parents to attend concussion briefings and explored whether it would be possible for a physician to lead an educational discussion about head injuries in person or online. Board members will consult with the district athletic department before a decision is made.
The board also created the position of director of transportation and hired current assistant supervisor of buildings, grounds and transportation Joyce Dahlstrom for the job. Her salary will remain unchaged at $52,000, a year.
First Published June 14, 2012 5:41 am