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Montoursville may see tax increase

In a 7 to 2 vote the Montoursville Area School District passed a preliminary budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which will raise taxes by $68.27 annually for the average taxpayer in the borough.

Voting “no,” were Dale Ulmer and Ronald Snell; Daniel Albert, Susan Beery, Jennifer Marriott, Dottie Mathers, David Shimmel, Scott Konkle and William Ruffing voted yes.

In the new school year, residents will be taxed 16.23 mills or $1,623 for $100,000 of assessed property value, .53 mills higher than this year, where the same assessed property would equate to $1,570 in taxes.

The .53 mill-tax raise is the highest allowed by the state without a waiver.

Although Brandy N. Smith, business manager, had calculated a deficit of over $1 million in early-May, she now calculates the district to run a deficit of $379,263 after administration-driven budget cuts.

That deficit will have to spend down the district’s fund balance to $3,282,904 next year.

“The administration team has been meeting, reviewing and looking at things where we can come up with some areas where we can find some savings,” she said.

The largest decrease came from instruction expenditures, where salaries and employee benefits decreased by a combined $266,785.

Ulmer said he would like to take about $85,000 out of the assigned fund balance in order to supplement the deficit and allow the board to lower the tax increase by .1 mill.

“We would still show the same deficit and the same usage out of the unassigned balance, but we would use some of the property taxes generated 10 years ago to help offset a little bit of that added Public School Employees’ Retirement System cost,” he said.

The purpose of the fund is to mitigate the damage of any one year, and COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on this year.

However, it would also reduce the district’s tax revenue and the average resident would only pay about $15 less in taxes.

“Yes it seems like such a little amount but what I’m talking about is the mental attitude that our community is taking towards our district,” said Ulmer. “This is the year to mentally give our community a break and not to have a tax increase.”

Ruffing and Albert said that although they would also like to keep taxes level, it was not feasible with unknown challenges ahead.

“If ever you’re going to prepare for the worst, this is the year,” said Ruffing. “You’re borrowing from Peter to pay Paul”

If the board doesn’t raise taxes now, when the district finds itself in financial trouble in the future it would have to raise taxes even higher, he said.

Albert said he agreed.

“We just went through a pandemic, we have no clue what’s going to come down the road for next year,” he said.

Although the board passed the budget, they agreed to review lowering taxes by .1 mill at the 7 p.m. June 9 virtual meeting. A link is available on the Montoursville School District website.

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