Two School Directors Voice Concerns About Tax Increase
School board members discussed the final proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year on Monday night.
Upper St. Clair School Board members Louis Mafrice and Louis Oliverio said they would not support the 1.375 mills proposed tax increase that the school board adopted.
A 1.375 mills increase is equivalent to an extra $275 in taxes per $200,000 assessed home value.
Mafrice apologized for missing the May vote and said that he was out of the country for work. He said his concern is that adopting a large tax increase this year will create a habit.
Oliverio proposed raising taxes by .79 mills instead of 1.375.
"I'm interested in exploring the lowest amount that five people will support," he said.
Business Director Frosina Cordisco said .79 mills would mean about $1 million less in tax revenue.
Superintendent Patrick O'Toole said to cut $1 million more in the budget would mean not replacing teachers the district was planning on replacing, which would mean larger English classes at Fort Couch Middle School, larger math classes at the high school, one less physics teacher and assistant principal at the high school, among other cuts.
He said the cuts would come on top of cutting 13 teachers, five teacher aides, one and a half secretaries and two administrative positions in the last two years.
"My recommendation is to pass the proposed final budget because I don't want to cut any further at this time," O'Toole said. "Further cuts ... would significantly impact what we do."
On the contrast, school Director Angela Petersen said she would support raising taxes the highest the Act 1 tax exemption would allow, which is 1.62 mills.
"I am sorry, I cannot go lower ... I would go higher," Petersen said.
Raising taxes this year would cover the projected deficit for next year.
"I think that's the prudent thing to do," she said. "The protection for next year is well worth it."
School board members all agreed that PSERS (the pension system for school retirees) is a major problem and lawmakers in Harrisburg must do something about it. Petersen said she hopes the tax increase would wake up the public and make them contact their local representatives.
"While a 1.62 (mills tax) increase may or may not wake up residents, it would not necessarily wake up Harrisburg because you're doing what they're not doing themselves (raising taxes)," Mafrice argued.
O'Toole told board members he is not in favor of applying for a tax exemption next year.
"From a leadership standpoint, to continue the Act 1 exemption next year isn't healthy. Working on the budget for nine months of the year is draining," he said. "It drains the leadership team and shifts their focus to cutbacks and not progress."
Cordisco also revealed to the board Monday night that she recently learned the district would be receiving $10,000 less in federal funding.
How high do you think the school board should raise taxes? Tell us in the comments. (Reminder: Two years ago they adopted a plan to raise taxes .4 mills for four years to pay for the middle school renovations.)
Stay in the loop and get all the Upper St. Clair headlines delivered to your email inbox. Click here to sign up for the Patch newsletter.