USC schools asking for state exception to raise taxes
Upper St. Clair School Board on Feb. 10 voted 8-1 to adopt a preliminary budget that would raise taxes by 0.783 mills for 2014-15.
Board member Louis Oliverio voted against the budget, saying that he was opposed to seeking 0.333 mills worth of exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to raise taxes higher than the inflation rate of 2.1 percent, or 0.45 mills.
Oliverio said, “I’m refusing to accept the hand dealt to us.”
He said pension spending will become unsustainable, saying the budget exceptions are being requested because of unsustainable pension costs.
The budget exceptions include 0.285 mills to fund increased pension costs, and 0.048 to fund increased special education costs.
Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district, recommended applying for the maximum increase from PDE in order to have the most flexibility when the board adopts a final budget in May or June.
Cordisco said that even with raising taxes by a total of 0.783 mills, the preliminary budget is not balanced, but has a shortfall of $746,538.
The budget would raise taxes by $1,618,057, which would mean a $157 increase in the tax bill of a home assessed at $200,000, she said.
Cordisco said that the average assessed value of a single family home in the school district is $265,791. She said it would mean a $208 tax hike for such a homeowner.
Board member Rebecca Stern said she was in favor of adopting the budget and applying for the exceptions.
“It makes sense for us to have as many tools in our box as possible,” she said. “I don’t see how our not requesting the maximum percentage sends any message to Harrisburg.”
Board member Buffy Hasco said, “I find this process maddening.”
She said it is like putting a puzzle together without the picture on the box to guide you.
Stern said, “The time put into this is not a productive use of our resources.”
It was the consensus of the board that the administration should put together a resolution for the board to vote on asking for pension reform.