School taxes in USC could be raised higher than originally planned

Published Jan 14, 2014 at 9:06 am (Updated Jan 14, 2014 at 9:06 am)

Upper St. Clair School Board is expected to vote Jan. 27 on whether to proceed with steps to apply to the state for an exception to raise taxes higher than the inflation rate as it did in 2012.

If the board wants to apply to the state for the exception to raises taxes beyond the 2.1 percent inflation rate of 0.450 mills, they must vote at that meeting to make a proposed preliminary budget available to the public.

Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district, said Jan. 13 that the board would then need to adopt the preliminary budget at its Feb. 10 meeting.

She said in order to apply to raise taxes beyond the inflation rate, the board would need to adopt a preliminary budget that showed it needed the additional revenue in order to balance the budget.

Cordisco has said the petition she is recommending is for the maximum exception allowed by law, in order the have the most flexibility for the board when adopting a final budget in May or June 2014. If granted the exception, the district can then choose to raise taxes by any amount up to the limit. If they do not apply for an exception, they must declare their intention to not raise taxes higher than the inflationary Act 1 index, which she expects to be 2.1 percent for the 2014-15 school year.

On Dec. 9, she told the board the maximum exception would mean a tax hike of 0.836 mills if the district were to ask the state for the maximum amount, and the state were to give its approval. She said that would amount to a $1,704,817 tax hike, which would cost residents with a home assessed at $200,000 an additional $167 in taxes.

By Jan. 13, she had done new calculations that would allow for an even higher top tax hike rate of 0.966 mills. She said this would amount to a $1,971,758 tax hike, which would cost residents with a home assessed at $200,000 an additional $193 in taxes.

Besides the 0.450 mill hike allowed by the 2.1 percent inflation rate, Cordico is currently recommending applying for an exception to raise taxes an additional 0.326 mills to cover pension costs and an additional 0.190 mills to cover special education costs.

Cordisco said that even with raising taxes by a total of 0.966 mills, the current budget numbers indicate a budget shortfall of $1.7 million.

She said the administration would continue to look for ways to trim the budget. She showed a chart that detailed a series of cuts that had been made to the budget in the past two years. They included cutting seven teaching positions and three support positions in the 2011-12 budget, and cutting seven more teaching positions and two support staff in the 2012-13 budget.

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