Proposed $64.25 million budget approved for Peters Township School District
Peters Township School Board has approved a proposed 2017-18 final budget for the district, calling for $64.25 million in spending from the general fund.
The board’s May 15 action is mandated by the state in advance of the adoption of a final spending plan, with a vote planned for June 26.
In the interim, the board has scheduled a finance committee meeting for June 12 as part of a process to fine-tune the numbers with an eye toward keeping the real estate rate as low as possible. For revenues to meet expenditures as estimated in the proposed budget, the rate would be set at 13.20 mills.
For property owners who have become used to triple-digit rates, the dramatic decrease is a result of Washington County’s first property reassessment since 1981. The new system calls for properties to be assessed at 100 percent of their market values, as opposed to the previous 25 percent.
The millage for 2017-18 would be based on a tax-revenue-neutral rate predicated by the estimated total assessment on property in the township as of March 15, which is $3.129 billion. After adjustments with consideration for new construction and projected losses in assessment appeals, the total becomes $3.068 billion.
By applying a 12.89-mill rate to that amount, the school district would generate $39.68 million, representing the equivalent of the 2016-17 tax levy.
Under the old assessment system, total taxable assessed value in Peters Township was only $348.9 million, with the property tax rate at 113.4 mills for the current academic year.
State Act 1 of 2006 allows the school district to implement a 2.4 percent real estate tax increase for next year, without applying for exceptions or taking the proposal to referendum. That would mean adding .31 mills to the tax-revenue neutral rate, arriving at the 13.20-mill figure.
The extra money generated would resolve a $937,239 gap between revenues and expenditures, as listed in the proposed final budget.
Whatever rate the school board approves, the impact looks to differ dramatically among various property owners. As a whole, though, Peters Township fares well against other area school districts, with its current rate ranking third-lowest among the 14 in Washington County.
The documentation accompanying Peters’ proposed final budget includes comparisons of the 12.89-mill revenue-neutral rate to the actual 2016-17 rates in nearby Allegheny County districts: Bethel Park, 22.8763 mills; Mt. Lebanon, 23.93; Upper St. Clair, 24.3388; and South Fayette, 26.7.
Applying those rates to a home valued at $300,000 results in these school tax bills:
• Peters Township, $3,687
• Bethel Park, $6,863
• Mt. Lebanon, $7,197
• Upper St. Clair, $7,302
• South Fayette, $8,010
Regarding expenditures, a major factor for Peters is its contribution to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which is projected to increase by $977,000 in 2017-18. According to the district, retirement costs have risen from 3.6 percent of operating expenses in 2007-08 to 15.8 percent in the coming year.
Meanwhile, Peters Township has faced the situation of fewer construction starts in recent years, resulting in lower rates of increases on the revenue side.