CV seeks OK to exceed Act 1 index
BY DONNA WALKER, Correspondent
Conestoga Valley School District will seek approval to raise taxes over the Act 1 index, but whether it will actually use the 2.5 percent it needs to balance the 2013-14 budget remains to be seen.
The school board on Tuesday approved the district's request to seek an exception to the Act 1 index, which limits a tax increase to 1.7 percent, but it provided clear direction to the administration on keeping the amount as low as possible.
Board members wrestled with their commitment to all-day kindergarten versus their reluctance to increase the taxpayer base.
Board chair Daryl Stoltzfus noted it's a board initiative to have all-day kindergarten, but he has reservations.
"My concern is that a year or two down the road, we'll say, 'Wow, this is more than we expected,'" he said.
Superintendent Gerald Huesken said the additional staff required to take Conestoga Valley to full-day kindergarten will impact the district in a positive way. He said he and Kim Seldomridge, district director of administrative services, are committed to getting the 2.5 percent figure down over the next few weeks "to bring it to the absolute lowest rate we require."
A 2.5 percent tax increase would hike the millage rate by .358, which would increase it from 14.2865 mills to 14.6445 mills. At that rate, the owner of a $166,000 property, the average value of a property in the school district, would pay $2,431 in school taxes, or $60 more than the current school year. A 1.7 percent rate increase would increase taxes about $40.
School districts may request an exception to the Act 1 index to help cover pension costs. The district estimates retirement costs will be $1.38 million more in 2013-14 when the state mandates CV direct 16.93 percent of its payroll toward pensions, up 4.57 percent from the current 12.36 percent.
"The pension issue is not our fault," Stoltzfus said. "But it's also not the taxpayers'."
Board member Alan Keim supported the opt-in tact, a reversal from his position in years past, because he stands behind the early childhood effort, he said.
"In the past few years, I've been against tax exceptions," Keim said. "I challenge the board to make the tough decision to cut other programs. As a board we need to work on other places we're willing to make the tough call and eliminate good programs."
Voting in favor of the resolution to appeal to the state for an exception to the Act 1 index were Daryl Stoltzfus, John Smucker, Todd Shertzer, Craig Esbenshade, Alan Keim and Elizabeth Ulrich.
Voting against were Merle Esch, Charles Maines and Idette Groff.
During the public comment period, East Lampeter Township resident Diane Tyson suggested the school board present at its March 18 community forum what programs would be cut to allow for full-day kindergarten implementation.
The district's 2013-14 budget will have an estimated $56,502,388 in revenue, 3.5 percent more than the current 2012-13 budget. Estimated expenditures for 2013-14 are $57,815,913, up 7.1 percent.
"We don't know all the variables out there, and things may change between now and May" when the final budget is approved, Huesken said after the meeting.
The preliminary budget will be presented for adoption at the Feb. 19 school board meeting. It is available for public inspection at the school district offices, 2110 Horseshoe Road.