Meadville Tribune

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June 26, 2013

Admin pushing for tax hike at Crawford Central

MEADVILLE — The administration is recommending a 1.19-mill increase in the school property tax rate paid by Crawford County residents living in the Crawford Central School District, but exactly what decision the Crawford Central School Board will have made when the yeas and the nays are tallied Friday afternoon remains pretty much anyone’s guess.

One thing is certain, however: At least five board members must be on the same page. Pennsylvania’s School Code requires approval by a majority of each nine-member board, regardless of how many are present when the vote is taken.

Crawford Central School Board will meet Friday at noon in the district’s administration building, 11280 Mercer Pike, Vernon Township. According to Pennsylvania law, all of the state’s 500 school districts must have a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 in place no later than June 30, which this year is on a Sunday.

If passed in its entirety, 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. If approved, the new rate will increase to 50.81 mills.

With one mill equaling $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, that means that 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 if the maximum increase is included, the district will be required to dip 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 a fund balance of approximately $4.2 million, representing approximately 8 percent of the previous year’s expenditures.

“With the state not addressing the pension cost increase to the district and the flat funding for special increase, the small amount of an increase that we did get from the state doesn’t begin to cover the increases that we have to deal with,” school board President Jan VanTuil said Tuesday. “In addition to the pension costs, we have close to a 10-percent increase in health care costs.”

VanTuil noted that even though the district’s overall payroll increase was held relatively flat this year due to what she described as “retirements and/or pay freezes or other factors,” health care and pension increases still boosted the bottom line above the maximum increase allowed by the state.

“Clearly, the board and administration is working hard to control those employee costs, which is evident with the fact that we’ve had two years without contracts,” VanTuil said.

A delegation representing the district’s support staff, which has been negotiating with the district for the past 2 1/2 years, has been attending recent school board meetings to show support for their union negotiators and opposition to discussions around the negotiating table indicating the district is considering entering into a contract with an outside provider for support services.

The district’s teachers have also been working without a contract for the past two years.

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