However, the district -- which encompasses the municipalities of
School board President
"We're just talking about them holding the drilling rights for about
"Gas drilling would be a good alternative to raising millage. ... Nobody wants to do that."
Should an agreement be reached, it's unclear how much money would be generated for the district's approximately
"Usually, it runs for about a five-year land lease. Now if they don't drill within five years, we would be open to negotiate another land lease," Wiltz said.
"It's not a done deal yet. We still haven't nailed these people down and don't know how much, if anything, we're going to get," Hopkins said of EQT.
"They have to do seismic tests first to see if we have what they're interested in under our property. We do have a lot of acreage, and we certainly could use any money we could get."
Wiltz referred to the
One business, Scientific Drilling, is preparing to open at the park. Another, Waukesha-Pierce, is preparing to build this spring. However, because Alta Vista is designated as a
But, Wiltz noted, the tax-free stay is beginning to run out for a handful of businesses, and they are supposed to began paying property tax. The first phase of the park's development was completed in 2002.
"As you space them out and fill those lots they have allocated for development, they're eventually going to be added to the tax rolls," Wiltz said. "It's going to prove beneficial in the long run. In the meantime, you're trying to survive, and that's the critical thing."
Wiltz said the district is placing long-term hope in aggressive redevelopment projects by several municipalities.
The plan to increase revenue possibly could reverse a trend that has seen businesses and other property owners receive property value reassessments that substantially lower tax bills. In January alone,
"We do have (
"Our objective is to maintain our budget so we're not running into red ink and cut some things that don't hinder education," Wiltz said. "And the board does a good job trying to do that."
The Borough of
"I'm enthusiastic that
"That looks promising, because
In November, the board committed to balancing the 2014-2015 budget without raising millage above the state-mandated index of 3.1 percent.
But even if the board votes to raise taxes, the increase would be negligible.
"When you say you raised taxes 3 mills, it's a drop in the bucket for a
In addition, union contracts with the teachers and support staff (maintenance, custodians, cafeteria workers, etc.) expire this summer.
"Eighty-five to 90 percent of that budget is given, payroll, utilities, things that you have no control over," Wiltz said. "What money is left, you don't have a lot of flexibility."
Kindergarten and elementary enrollment has increased and classrooms are near capacity, Hopkins said.
Hopkins said running the district is much like operating a home budget.
"You can't save money when it takes every penny to continue to do what you're doing," Hopkins said.
"I think we're fortunate in that we've always remained inside our budget limitations, and we did not have to cut teachers or programs like other school districts have.
"But like most other school districts, we're looking at any possible way to secure more revenue."
After the state budget cut approximately
"Our employees have been great and that will never be made up, but if they wouldn't have done that, we'd have never survived," Hopkins said.
"We really need more programs, more technology for the kids. I'm afraid that without extra finances, you don't move into the future. You don't get those extra things for your kids."
Hopkins said the district cannot rely on new revenue from gas drilling rights and redevelopment plans, because there are no guarantees.
The "strict budget meetings" for next school year will begin in March, she said.
"You have to watch which departments are over budget and which departments are under on a day-by-day basis," Hopkins said.
"When budget time rolls around, there's nothing but hard work involved. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of Maalox, because there are people and kids behind every decision you make."
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