BLOSSBURG - Southern Tioga School District property owners in Tioga County can look for a 6.3 percent tax increase the district says it needed to balance its $27 million 2012-13 budget. Property owners living in Lycoming County will see a slightly smaller tax increase of 3.2 percent.
The millage in Tioga County will rise to 15.14 mills, and 15.6 mills in Lycoming County.
Real estate tax revenue is expected to be about $8.3 million, Business Manager Laura Perry said.
Total exceptions approved by the state Department of Education amounted to about $300,000, which allowed the district to tax its residents above the 2.4 percent index allowed by Act. 1.
"We are using all our exceptions for the first time ever," Perry said.
Supplementing that will be the 1.3 percent earned income tax and property transfer taxes of 0.5 percent, as well as dwindling subsidies from the state and federal governments.
The budget likely will be adopted as it is at next Monday's board meeting, but the board can make changes right up until then, and even re-open it in coming months to make changes depending on where the governor's budget ends up, she said.
"You always have the option to change the budget. This is just a footprint for us to follow, but it doesn't preclude the board from making any changes," she said.
The discussion centered around parents concerned because the fourth grade next year will see an increase in class size from 20 to almost 30 because the district is not hiring extra fourth-grade teachers to keep costs down.
That, coupled with the retirements of four administrators last month, plus the tax increase, enabled the district to balance its budget, and end up with a small surplus, Perry said.
There is some hope that some state money could be put back into the schools, according to Perry.
"If the budget changes to either the Senate or the House version, we could have between $150,000 and $300,000 in additional funds," she said, enabling the district to consider hiring two new teachers for the fourth grades.
Board member Susan Jaquish said she "hopes we can look at that again, and recognize what is in the best interest of the kids."
Board member Frank Kollar said he is "not at all against hiring two new teachers, but we are $300,000 surpassing in costs from last year, and you have to have the ability to pay or you face a deficit. Everything is going up, but I fully agree we have to address the needs of our children. They come first."
Perry said eligible taxpayers in both counties will receive a homestead-farmstead rebate of $189 on their tax bills in July.
Board President Barb Shull will step down due to "other responsibilities" and asked for someone else to fill her unexpired term starting June 11. She is remaining on the board to serve as a regular member.