Proposed tax hike in Montoursville needs scrutiny

For most local taxpayers, the school property levy is the largest single bill they pay in a given year. So any school tax increase is not welcome.

Increases above the Act 1 index are demoralizing.

Montoursville Area School District’s real estate tax millage is at 14.85 mills, so any increase above 0.46 mills is above the state’s Act 1 index and requires additional state approval.

The district’s business manager last week said that he is recommending exceeding the index.

The need for more funds was laid at the altar of higher wages and benefits, which is inevitable given the percentage of a school budget that includes wages and benefits.

It’s hard to believe payments required for an extensive high school modernization project – much of it very necessary – in the past few years aren’t a factor. But that debate is history.

No matter what the core reasons are, taxpayers in Montoursville – or any school district – can’t afford a tax increase above the state’s Act 1 index.

A proposed preliminary budget with the exact tax increase amount is going before the board next Tuesday and a spending plan is going before the board Feb. 13.

At the very least, taxpayers deserve a full-fledged effort to find cuts in expenses that will get the tax increase within the Act 1 limits.

This is not to minimize the tall task facing the district’s administration and school board. We get that. But anytime a tax increase of this size is on the table, painstaking scrutiny of expenses should be a given.