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June 18, 2014

Conneaut School Board raises taxes to prep for future

LINESVILLE — Conneaut School Board chose to look toward the future at Tuesday evening’s meeting when it passed its 2014-15 budget with a 0.5 mill property tax increase.

Though the proposed budget which had been on display since May 12 didn’t include an increase, board members chose to raise taxes a half mill with the stipulation that 0.25 mills be committed to the general fund for future mandatory contributions to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.

When the vote to approve the budget with a 0.5 mill increase came, there were five “yes” votes and one “no” vote: board member Brian Boyce.

“I think the money can come out of the fund balance,” Boyce said. “There’s no reason to raise taxes.”

School board President Dr. Walter Thomas, Vice President Don Ellis and board members Jody Sperry, Dave Schaef and Dot Luckock voted “yes.” Not present for the vote were board members Kathleen Duncan-Klink, Cheryl Krachkowski and John Burnham.

This is the first time the district has raised taxes since 2011. The increase brings the mill rate to 50.55. The increase generates $146,519 for the district, with $62,500 set to go toward future PSERS raises.

One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed value; this means an owner of a residence with the district’s median assessed value of $30,000 will see an increase of $15 from 1,501.50 to 1,516.50.

“I think this budget process has been a very thorough one compared to recent years,” longtime board member Schaef said.

With PSERS projected to increase to 30.25 percent by the 2017-18 school year, Schaef was fully behind the increase to help sustain the fund balance for the future.

“I think it’s a wise thing to plan ahead,” Schaef said. “It makes sense to me to do this.”

Finance committee member Sperry said the administrators, support staff and teachers went line by line in cutting unnecessary items without dropping current program levels.

“We appreciate their efforts to the common good,” said Luckock, another finance committee member.

Schaef explained the decision to raise the taxes didn’t come easily, saying there were six finance committee meetings regarding the raise.

“It’s always hard to increase taxes because it impacts people out there,” Schaef said.

After the meeting, business manager Kara Onorato explained the objective of the budget committee.

“The goal of the budget committee was to evaluate fiscal policies, reporting to the board, administration and public,” Onorato said. “We’re trying to develop transparency and continue our path of fiscal responsibility looking toward the future.”

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