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Preliminary Schools Budget Shows $2.7 Million Shortfall

Upper St. Clair School District is planning to file for an Act 1 exception. If granted, the district could raise taxes higher than the property tax cap.

The preliminary 2012-13 budget for the shows a $2.7 million shortfall.

Superintendent Patrick O'Toole shared the numbers in a presentation with the school board on Monday night. He called the outlook "sobering."

Under Pennsylvania's Act 1 of 2006, school boards are limited in how high they can raise real estate taxes. Dr. O'Toole said next year, Act 1 will allow the school board to raise taxes by 1.7 percent or .41 mils. If the school board chooses to raise taxes, the amount raised would be $670,000—not enough to cover the $2.7 million shortfall.

A new law passed this summer allows Pennsylvania school districts to apply for an Act 1 exception if the districts can show they need to raise taxes because of pension costs, special education costs or grandfathered debt service. If the state accepts the application, the districts would be able to raise taxes higher than the cap without a referendum on the ballot.

There are a number of reasons for projected shortfall. Act 1 only allowed the district to raise taxes by .33 mils for the 2011-12 budget. The district had been planning to raise taxes by .4 mils to cover the .

Another reason for the shortfall is the lack of state funding the district is receiving. Dr. O'Toole said the state gives the district $972 per pupil, which is the third lowest in Allegheny County. He said most districts receive $2,000 or $3,000 per pupil.

The $2.7 million shortfall is lower than . In September, the district's finance department refinanced and took advantage of the historically low interest rates. The district also received a little more money from the state than they planned for and they reduced staff.

The district must apply for the Act 1 exception by the end of January 2012.

"Almost every school district in Allegheny County—90 percent—will be filing for exceptions this year," said Frosina Cordisco, business manager.

"Obviously we have a lot of work to do," Dr. O'Toole said. "Nobody likes to raise taxes and we try everything we can not to do that...there are still rather difficult times ahead for us."

"There is no way we will be able to address these numbers by using just one measure. Not by just cutting spending, not by just raising taxes," said Harry Kunselman, president of the school board.

Dr. O'Toole ended the presentation by saying he would stay in touch with the psychological impacts the projected shortfall may have on the staff.

School Mom October 12, 2011 at 09:18 PM
I know how the School District can save $300,000....get rid of that ridiculous IB program. Why should an award-winning school district have this added financial burden? Did you ever wonder why the surrounding school districts don't have it? They can't afford it! How can that School Board tell the taxpayers that there will be an increase in taxes when they don't even look right under their noses for one cost reduction?
Frank DiGeorge October 24, 2011 at 11:09 AM
Here is a district in CA similar to USC. St. Helena CA, an affluent area with excellent schools. They have less than 1,500 students. The school board voted unanimously to implement IB. At least $1,000,000 was spent. After having IB for less than two years the high school students fought to remove it. Three years after the board voted to implement IB they realized the students were right, so they voted unanimously to drop IB. http://napavalleyregister.com/star/news/local/article_8b306270-4ae5-11e0-b742-001cc4c03286.html http://napavalleyregister.com/star/news/local/article_93d3c612-5042-11e0-a7c4-001cc4c002e0.html If USC saved $1,000,000 on IB then there would would only be a $1,700,000 short fall. If O'Toole is willing to waste $1,000,000 on IB, he is probably wasting at least $1,700,000 in other areas. How much did it cost USC to fight the ACLU law suit? IB does not improve student performacne. If O'Toole drops IB as a first step, it will show the community he is willing to start by, "cutting the fat."

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