Worried about future expenses but labeling the district "financially sound," Manheim Central School Board passed a 2015-16 preliminary final budget May 18 that calls for a 1 percent tax increase.
The vote was 6-3. Leah Kresge, Brad Hoffer and Pat McGeehan voted no. Whitney Crouse, Linda Williams, Robert Iosue, Mike Clair, President Ken Kowalski and Vice President Kim Garner voted yes.
During Business Manager Bryan Howett's presentation on the district's sound fiscal state and its strong reserve funds, Hoffer questioned if the district could tap into that instead of raising taxes.
Howett said it could, but cautioned about the coming spike in pension costs and other anticipated expenses.
Iosue said he was not keen on raising taxes, but the district must by ensure it has enough revenue to pay future bills. He noted he has seen other districts not raise taxes and then have large spikes. "I think planning ahead is part of being responsible," he said.
The preliminary final budget is a $48,364,451 spending plan with projected revenues of $48,340,334, creating a deficit of $24,117. If the board approved this plan, the district would cover this gap with reserves, Howett said.
A 1 percent tax increase would raise the millage rate by 0.1718 mills from 17.1848 mills to 17.356 mills. This would raise the annual tax bill for a home assessed at $155,000 by $26.64.
The board will vote on a final budget at its June 22 meeting at Manheim Central Middle School.
Kresge, who voted against the budget, cited the district's decision to start a construction project.
The district is embarking on a $43.9 million project to build two new schools, a new Doe Run Elementary and a new elementary school on Gramby Street. The district had planned to renovate Doe Run, but decided to build in a new location after the architects discovered structural faults in the school.
"We chose to do this expensive construction project," she said. "Personally, I have a hard time with passing that cost on to the taxpayers."
Garner said in response, "But I would argue that it part of our responsibility to take care of our buildings."
Howett expects students will be able to move into the new Doe Run school by the fall 2017 and the new Gramby Street school in early 2019.