News Column

Charleroi school board eyes real estate tax hike

May 21, 2014

By Rick Bruni Jr., The Valley Independent, Monessen, Pa.

May 21--Property owners in the Charleroi Area School District could face a real estate tax hike.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved a tentative budget for the 2014-2015 school year that requires property tax rates to rise 3 mills -- from 130 to 133.

One mill generates about $50,000 in revenue for the district.

The proposed budget lists expected expenditures and revenues at $21,289,092 and will be available for public inspection for the next 30 days at the Charleroi Area High School/Middle School main office.

Business manager Crystal Zahand said residents can anticipate changes to the spending and revenue amounts before the budget is ultimately approved in June.

Zahand said final numbers will hinge on educational spending doled out in the state's 2014-2015 budget. The deadline to approve that budget is June 30.

"We'll be working on the budget to hopefully pare things down and hopefully we'll have more information as it comes forth from the state and the feds," Board president Ken Wiltz said. "We'll be looking at a number of areas that we can reduce that 3 mills."

Zahand said the tentative spending plan does not include cuts to curriculum.

Wiltz and Vice President Jim Short listed three reasons for the proposed tax hike:

--An increase in the district's contribution to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS). The rate school districts are required to pay into the retirement fund is expected to rise from 16.93 percent to 21.4 percent of the annual salary for teachers and staff. The rates are mandated by the state.

--A 4.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for teachers and staff effective July 1.

--Drastic cuts in state subsidies for basic education from the state.

"If you take the 200 people who work here, a 4.5 percent increase means about $300,000," Short said of the retirement fund increase. Wiltz and Short also noted steadily increased costs for special education students.

"All 500 school districts in this state are facing this," Wiltz said.

The school board will be tackling new contracts for both district teachers and support staff. The teacher's contract expires in August.

"We're trying to wrestle through all of this," Short said. "Last year, we did not raise taxes at all ... and that was the right thing to do because we had money in the budget from the state and everything balanced out well.

"This year is tough based on those numbers. I think PSERS is the biggest thing, and if you look at the projections correctly, they go up another 4.5 percent in 2015-16 and maybe 3 percent the following year."

In other action, the board voted to advertise for bids to purchase two school buses and two vans. The buses are to accommodate 72 passengers.

The board will conduct its regular monthly business meeting 7 p.m.May 27.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.


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Source: Valley Independent (Monessen, PA)

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