Board OKs property tax increase

The Loyalsock Township School Board approved a tentative budget for the 2013-14 school year Wednesday, which included a .15 millage increase on real estate taxes.

The district still would be required to use $94,532 in unassigned fund balance with the tax increase. A tax increase of .15 mills would amount to an extra $15 in taxes for a home valued at $100,000.

Gerald McLaughlin, business manager, noted that the district’s health care costs rose 9 percent from last year and pension contributions increased 4.57 percent. The retirement increase added about $411,000 in expenses, half of which is reimbursed by the state.

The overall budget was a 3.66 percent increase over last year’s. Athletics grew 16 percent and special education went up 7.83 percent for 2013-14.

McLaughlin noted that projections show retirement costs rising from 16.93 percent this year to over 20 percent in the next two years. Projections also show health care going up 8 percent the next three years, which would amount to a total of about $500,000.

“These are some pretty big numbers that will drive our budget,” McLaughlin said.

Board member Paul Young II said he felt the tax was unnecessary.

“I just don’t feel it’s justified,” Young said.

Board members David Hornberger and William Carlucci supported the increase, saying it would better assure the district of having a balanced budget.

McLaughlin reported that without a tax increase the district would need to make up a deficit of about $196,000. The district could raise taxes .26 mills under the Act 1 Index.

Maureen Carey, board member, said she believes that this year could be the only year the board didn’t need to raise taxes at all. The board raised taxes for the 2012-13 school year for the first time in six years, McLaughlin reported.

“I’m think maybe every year after this one we’ll have to raise taxes,” Carey said.

Carey, Young and Stephen Dewar voted against the tentative budget, having the item pass 6-3.

The board is expected to vote on the proposed final budget May 15.