Plum school board members pledge to keep any tax increase in their 2019-20 budget to a minimum |

Plum school board members pledge to keep any tax increase in their 2019-20 budget to a minimum

Michael DiVittorio

Plum School District officials pledged to keep any tax increase in next year’s budget to a minimum and within state Act 1 guidelines.

The board voted 6-2 at a special meeting Tuesday night do adopt a resolution making that commitment.

Board President Scott Coulson, Vice President Vicky Roessler and board members Steve Schlauch, Scott Kolar, Angela Anderson and Sue Caldwell voted in favor.

Board members Richard Zucco and Jim Rogers dissented. Brian Wisniewski was absent.

“I don’t like the idea of cutting off our options,” Rogers said. “We don’t have to do it (go beyond the index), but I’d like to have the option.”

The current millage is 21.0757. An increase to the index limit would be 21.729 mills, a 3.1 percent hike.

That means an owner of a $100,000 home would pay $65 more in real estate taxes.

A tax hike beyond the index would have given the option to raise the millage rate to an estimated 22.024 mills. That would have resulted in a $100,000 property owner paying roughly $94 more.

“I think the residents have been taxed enough,” Roessler said.

Coulson agreed and said the district’s in a position were it does not need to seek a higher tax increase to balance the budget.

“There have been a lot of changes in the school district,” Coulson said. “We’ve been very frugal.”

District officials increased taxes, closed Regency Park Elementary, reduced kindergarten from full-to half-day and furloughed more than 20 teachers for this year’s budget.

The pledge not to go beyond the index also means the district is not required to advertise and adopt a preliminary budget at this time.

District Business Manager John Zahorchak said the board’s next official action regarding the 2019-20 budget does not need to take place until May 31, when it would need to approve a proposed final budget.

That proposal would be available for public inspection for at least 20 days prior to formal adoption. A final budget must be balanced and approved by the end of June.

Zahorchak announced the projected $1.1 million deficit in the 2019-20 budget has dropped to approximately $800,000 due to an increase in assessed property values and an adjustment in cyber school tuition costs.

He said a raise to the index would cover the deficit, but moving to make a higher tax increase would have generated enough additional revenue to start a capital project fund.

That fund would have been used for large maintenance and repair projects, as well as major equipment purchases.

Schlauch said an additional tax hike to start the fund was unnecessary at this time because there still is $3.5 million remaining from a $10 million 2014 bond issue. That bond was originally taken out to build a new Regency Park school and cover capital projects.

Zahorchak delivered a budget presentation at a Jan. 15 finance committee meeting. Those documents were posted on the district’s website at .

Part of the presentation included several items that could be cut in order to reduce the deficit and any tax increase.

One option that appears to have been taken off the chopping block was a mid-day kindergarten bus run with a projected $81,600 savings.

The board unanimously approved a motion at the special meeting to authorize a commitment by administration to provide kindergarten busing. The funds for the bus are in the proposed budget. However, the actual line item was not changed after Kolar raised concerns about committing funds to an unapproved budget.

Anderson said parents are registering their children for kindergarten now, and cannot wait until June to know whether students would have transportation.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.