School board talks possible tax hike at budget workshop

Montoursville Area School Board discussed the need for raising real estate taxes on residents to help balance next year’s $27 million budget during Tuesday night’s workshop session.

At this point, nothing is set in stone, although the very real possibility of a 0.29 millage rate hike first was discussed last month.

School director Dale Ulmer, for one, said he sees little reason to increase taxes, given that the district is sitting on some extra funding, including a $500,000 budget reserve.

The millage rate would increase from 13.31 to 13.60.

It would mean a yearly increase in property taxes of $29 on a home with an assessed value of $100,000.

Superintendent Dr. Timothy Bowers conceded there might be areas of the budget to consider cutting, including maintenance and technology.

Many budget items, he said, continue to increase in costs, including health care insurance and pensions.

He dismissed the notion of cutting any teacher positions, noting that it would increase the number of students per classroom.

In addition to a tax hike, just under $2 million would be used from the fund balance for next year’s spending plan.

Ulmer said he understood the need to plan for skyrocketing pension costs, but he also noted there seems to be no real other big looming costs.

He warned the board against getting into a pattern of raising taxes little by little over the next few years

“It all adds up,” he said.

The preliminary budget is expected to be passed at the May 14 meeting.

In related matters, it was noted that several changes are in the works for student lunches and breakfasts in the coming year.

Under recommendation from the administration, school lunches could increase by 5 cents.

Loyalsock Valley and Lyter Elementary School students would continue to pay $2.15 per lunch, while middle and high school students would pay $2.30 per lunch.

It was noted that high school students are eating less cafeteria food and choosing instead to pack their lunches.

That’s one reason the food service budget is losing money.

Under the federal government Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the district will take steps to improve child nutrition.

It will include larger servings and required types of fruits, foods with lower sodium levels, and only fat-free and low fat milk.