Meadville Tribune

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June 29, 2013

Tax hike included in approved Crawford Central budget

MEADVILLE — Residents of Crawford Central School District living in Crawford County will be paying an additional 1.19 mills in school property taxes. By a vote of 6-2 with long-time property tax increase opponents Mitch Roe and Frank Schreck casting dissenting votes and Rob Smith absent, members of Crawford Central School Board passed the district’s 2013-14 budget during a special meeting that convened Friday at noon in the district’s instructional support center.

The 2013-14 budget includes funding for the Meadville Area Recreation Complex and leaves the outsourcing option open to negotiation.

“Is this the best you could do?” board member Richard Curry asked Superintendent Charlie Heller immediately before Friday’s vote was taken.

“It is,” Heller replied.

The 1.19-mill increase, the maximum allowed for the district by Pennsylvania Department of Education without voter referendum, represents a 2.4 percent increase over the current 49.62 mills. With one mill equaling $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, the owner of a Crawford Central home with the median assessed value of $29,000 will see an increase of $34.51, boosting the structure’s total school property tax bill for 2013-14 to $1,473.49.

For each mill collected in school property taxes, the district receives approximately $485,000. However, even with the maximum increase included, the district will be dipping into its general fund balance to the tune of $162,451 to bring the $53.5 million budget into balance. That, according to Guy O’Neil, the district’s business manager, would reduce the fund balance by 3.8 percent, leaving the district with an unreserved, undesignated fund balance of approximately $3.25 million, representing approximately 6.1 percent of the total budgeted expenditures of $53,530,438.

With a bottom line of that size, a school district raising its property tax rate is allowed by PDE to maintain an unreserved, undesignated fund balance equaling a maximum of 8 percent of its budgeted expenditures.

“We’re not happy about the fact we had to have a millage increase,” Heller said, “but based on the circumstances, we had to have one.”

Vice President Jon DeArment, who heads the district’s finance committee, agreed. “No one wants to see millage go up,” DeArment said, “but whittling the budget down now will only further erode the education our children receive.”

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