Board to cover budget with reserves, tax hike

BLOSSBURG – Southern Tioga School Board voted to approve a $28.3 million budget for the 2013-14 school year. With projected revenue only totaling $27.8 million, the district faces a $470,000 deficit.

Under the new budget, the earned income tax rate will remain steady at 1.2 percent. The millage rate will increase by 2.3 percent, the maximum allowable by Act 1.

“Last year we went above our Act 1 index, but this year we didn’t,” Laura Perry, district business manager, said. “The shortfall will be taken from reserves.”

Anticipated tax increases caused by such a deficit concerned some citizens at the board meeting.

“The money that comes out of the rainy day fund will get repaid through local taxes. We have a lot of poor seniors that are just scraping by,” John Ritter, of Sullivan Township, said.

The board unanimously approved the budget, with two members absent, Kyle Lefelhoc and Daniel Burgeson.

“Each of you that voted for this budget resolution made a mistake,” Ritter said. “I think it’s ultimately going to crush the district and reduce our tax base.”

The Act 1 index, determined by the state Department of Education, caps the amount that school districts can raise real estate taxes before exceptions or voter referendum. Tioga County will see a 0.03 percent millage rate increase and Lycoming County’s millage rate will decrease by 2.06 percent. The change in millage will take effect July 1.

The board also approved a $23,137 contract with Overpeck Flooring to replace the tile removed at Blossburg Elementary School. About 7,000 square feet of tile will be replaced as part of the district’s asbestos abatement contract. Blossburg Elementary is not among the schools eyed for closure, so “putting tile down on the floor is definitely justified,” Yarger said.

One citizen questioned the approval of the purchase of a $25,000 lawn tractor for North Penn High School, claiming the lawns at Liberty and Mansfield are significantly larger.

“We are trying to upgrade our equipment on a rotating cycle. Any equipment can be used at any facility,” Perry said.

At the recommendation of the administration, the board also approved $211,446 in capital improvements to be taken from the capital fund.

The district is keeping its fingers crossed that additional money will become available when the state approves its budget on July 1.

“We are getting reports that the revenues at the state level from May to June have increased above anticipations,” Perry said. “Hopefully that means good business for local school districts.”