VERNON TOWNSHIP — With Crawford Central School Board set to vote on the district’s 2021-22 budget next week, the board appears poised to approve a tax increase of 1.86 mills for Crawford County residents of the district.

No new objections were raised by the six board members present at this week's meeting. Frank Schreck voiced his staunch opposition to the increase last month, but a majority of the remaining members seems ready to approve the increase. Vice President Jeff Rose and members Ross Prather and Delwood Smith were absent from the meeting on Monday.

“I just wanted to make sure everybody’s OK with this and what it looks like,” Superintendent Tom Washington told the board. “We’ve talked about this.”

The $65.4 million budget includes $4.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds. In addition to the federal relief, the tax increase and savings from the district’s fund balance will be used to eliminate the budget’s $5.1 million deficit.

With 1 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 annual increase of $53.94 if the real estate tax hike is approved. Under the current rate of 52.61 mills, the same hypothetical owner pays $1,525.69 each year.

What little discussion that took place focused on two issues: what the district can expect in terms of subsidies from the state and the apparent discrepancy between millage rates for district taxpayers who reside in Crawford County and those who reside in Mercer County.

Board member Kevin Merritt raised the question of the annual state subsidy and how uncertainty over that amount of that subsidy affects the budget.

Washington said the subsidy cannot be lower than it was last year, but it was not yet clear whether lawmakers in Harrisburg would come to a compromise on any increase. While the state subsidy typically increases 2 percent each year, Washington added, there was no increase last year and recent discussions at the Capitol have suggested any increase this year would be significantly lower than 2 percent.

“They’re saying there could be an increase, but as always, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Washington said. “So, bottom line is we just kind of sit back and just say whatever they get to, they get to."

State funding accounts for 48.9 percent of district revenue in the budget while local sources of revenue make up 42.4 percent. The remaining 8.7 percent comes from federal sources.

Crawford Central’s local revenue comes from municipalities in two counties. While the vast majority of taxpayers in the district reside in Crawford County, the district also includes one Mercer County municipality — French Creek Township. The district’s Mercer County residents will see their millage rate increase by 3.01 mills to 96.11 mills. The apparent discrepancy is a perennial source of confusion, according to Washington, that results from the two county’s different assessment rates and the state formula used to bring them into agreement.

“It’s the same raise,” Washington said. “Their 96 millage is equivalent to our 56 millage.”

Increasing insurance rates were cited as one contributing factor to the escalating cost of doing business for the district. Washington said the district expects its insurance rate to increase by 10 percent, with most of the hike coming due to the increasing cost of worker’s compensation coverage.

The board will vote to approve the 2021-22 budget when it meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Instructional Support Center, 11280 Mercer Pike. Meetings are open to the public. District residents who wish to address the board should arrive a few minutes early and sign up on the public comment sheet.

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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