Williamsport school board proposes tax hike for city

The Williamsport Area School Board unanimously approved its proposed 2018-19 budget reflecting a tax increase of 0.4 mills on Tuesday.

The proposed budget is subject to change until the final budget is adopted on June 5.

The total millage for the district in 2017-18 was 16.16 mills, and the proposed budget reflects 16.56 mills.

For a homeowner with a $100,000 valued home, the millage increase would mean a $40 real estate tax increase.

The proposed 2018-19 total estimated budget revenue is $89,968,530 with expenditures at $91,155,387, according to Brett Leinbach, director of finance and accounting. He said the district will have a deficit of $793,857.

Adam Welteroth, board member, said he knew taxes in the area were high for many people.

“It’s not the school district’s total fault. It’s the city and the county, too,” he said. “To some people, $40 … that’s not really too bad of an increase, but for some people, that really does hurt.”

“I feel like this year, coming into this budget season … I feel like we have done more conservative estimating than what we’ve ever done,” said Lori Baer, board president. “I’m not sure we’ll see the fund balances we’ve seen in previous years.”

Dr. Timothy Bowers, superintendent, said the budget was very tight now due to costs like cyber schools driving up expenditures.

“You just can’t have any room anymore … We just do our best,” he said. “That means if you do have something happen, you better have those reserves to protect you or we’re in trouble.”

He said the important thing was to have a proposed budget to be on display for the public.

“We can put this out there, but we’re still not done with it. We might be able to trim,” said Patrick Dixon, board member.

“We represent the people … We’re not saying we’re approving this budget. We’re approving saying, ‘We want you guys to see it, we want your input and please reach out to us,’ “ Welteroth said.

Baer said it was a work in progress.

In other business, the board unanimously approved closing the horticulture program at the end of the 2017-18 school year and approved the exploration and development of a homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and relative protective services CTE program to start in 2019-20.

Dr. Randy Zangara, director of career and technical education, said the horticulture program dropped from 11 to three in attendance this year.

“It’s a recommendation of a program that’s not really thriving, not really subscribed but understand we’re putting a lot of resources there as a district, and bring you an alternative that we think would be a robust program with more completers, more students,” said Dr. Susie Bigger, assistant superintendent. “It also has some very strong ties in our community.”

Voting yes were members Baer, Welteroth, Dixon, Marc Shefsky, Jennifer Lake, Dr. Nancy Story Somers, Spencer Sweeting and Brette . Member Dr. Jane Penman was absent.

The next meeting will be 6 p.m. May 15 at the District Service Center, 2780 W. Fourth St.