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Tentative Tyrone Area budget includes 3-mill tax increase

Last night, the Tyrone Area School District passed its tentative 2005-06 budget which includes a three-mill tax increase.
The budget must be advertised and will be considered for final adoption at the board’s June 28 regular meeting. The board moved its work session and regular session to June 28 to allow for the advertising of the budget.
During a work session last night, the board also considered a 4-mill and 5-mill increase before settling on 3 mills. The 3-mill-increase applies to property owners in Blair County with taxes being increased 0.24 mills in Centre County and 1.76 mills in Huntingdon County because of adjustments required by tax equalization. A state-mandated formula is used in the Tyrone Area School District to equalize taxes since it is made up of residents from three counties.
The district’s preliminary budget shows based on the average assessed value of a residence, TASD property owners in Blair County will pay an additional $16.73 in taxes for the 05-06 fiscal year. In Centre County, the increase is $8.24 and in Huntingdon County, the boost in taxes will be $21.32.
School board member Ray Detwiler voted against the proposed tax increase. He was the lone no vote among the district’s nine school board members. Detwiler was also one of two board members who voted to opt in to participation in the state’s gambling-generated property tax reduction program. The overall vote was 7 to 2 against “opting in” to the funding.
After the meeting he said, “How can you opt out of Act 72, to give the taxpayers a break, then turn around and kick them below the belt and tell them they are going to have to pay more with a property (tax) increase with that kind of a surplus, it’s not right.”
Detwiler was referring to a surplus in the district’s general fund balance.
The district’s figures, noted in its preliminary budget, showed a fund balance for the district stood at just more than $2.5 million at the end of fiscal year 2004. The balance was listed to be at $1,393,438 as of June 30, 2005. The district transferred $1,000,000 from its general fund to its capital reserve fund. That move and a difference between estimated revenues and expenditures leaves the district with the $1,393,438 at the end of fiscal year 04-05.
The preliminary budget shows proposed 05-06 revenues of $18,419,068 and proposed expenditures of $19,305,947. The budget shows a shortfall of $886,879. The budget projects an expected fund balance of $506,559 on June 30, 2006. The 05-06 shortfall would reduce the fund balance to that figure.
The district has a $10-million reserve fund and is also working on a $10 million renovation and additions project at the middle school. Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller said the district hasn’t decided yet whether or not it will use money from its capital reserve to pay off the project.
“As long as I’ve been here we’ve always had a capital reserve fund to protect the district for issues which come up,” said Dr. Miller. “We can’t each year eat into that fund balance because in time, three to five years where you don’t increase taxes at all, you are going to have to increase taxes significantly to deal with that.”
He said if the district would use its reserves to payoff the building project the fund would be depleted.
“If you pay off this project, you don’t have anything except what you are transferring in, this $1 million.”
He said the district, “from a protection standpoint” wanted to use “in the long term…reasonable financing and responsible financing.”
He said the district had to “look at the entire picture.”
Miller noted the district would be dealing with teacher contracts and other issues in the future.
He called the tax increase “reasonable” and said the district had not raised taxes in seven years.
He also noted that property owners in Centre and Huntingdon County had a higher millage rate in 2000-01 and 03-04 than they will have in 05-06 even with the proposed increase because of equalization.