Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Elizabethtown might not increase school taxes
BY CHAD UMBLE, Staff Writer
For Elizabethtown area property owners, there was a whisper of a possibility at a school district finance committee meeting Tuesday that there might be no increase in school taxes for 2013-14.
The school board is still evaluating options as it puts together a preliminary 2013-14 budget, which totals $51.6 million. And while the board has given itself the option of raising taxes 3.5 percent, a no-increase option got a public airing Tuesday.
At the meeting, George Longridge, the district's business manager, reviewed budget numbers and options. In the early budgeting plan for 2013-14, expenses exceed revenues by $2.2 million.
Nevertheless, after hearing an explanation of the roughly $500,000 expected surplus from this year, Louisa Clark, finance committee chairwoman, made the no-tax-increase suggestion.
"With that in mind, there has to be some discussion about not having a tax increase this year and taking it out of fund balance," Clark said.
"That could happen, yes," Longridge said, while quickly adding that he wasn't comfortable making that a formal recommendation.
One factor that could increase the district's cost, Longridge explained, would be a possible need for another administrator given a new rating system for teachers that could require close involvement of administrators.
In recent years, Elizabethtown has trimmed its number of administrators. For example, Michele Balliet's former position of assistant superintendent wasn't filled when she was promoted to superintendent.
The district's current tax rate is 17.89 mills. At that level, the owner of a property assessed at $100,000, pays $1,789.With a 2.2-percent tax increase -- an amount that is the district's Act 1 index -- the $2.2 million budget deficit would be reduced to $1.6 million.
If board members opted for a 3.5-percent tax increase -- using the possible exceptions to the Act 1 index -- the result would further reduce the deficit to $1.3 million. (The 3.5-percent option was revised from a possible 4-percent hike in an earlier budget calculation.)
The district will be asking for permission to raise taxes 3.5 percent because of escalating pension costs, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will do so.
Replacing retiring teachers with lower-cost new hires is another way the district can reduce personnel costs and close its budget gap. The district could also save money by reshuffling duties instead of bringing in replacements.
At the meeting, Longridge announced that there were six retirements: four at the elementary level and two at the secondary level.
Balliet said district administrators are only now looking at possible savings from staffing adjustments made possible by the retirements.