PERRYOPOLIS — Any potential property tax increase in Frazier School District in 2019-20 will not exceed the state index for millage.
The school board Monday adopted an accelerated budget opt-out resolution for the 2019-20 school year, which gives the district additional time to prepare its preliminary budget and ensures it will not raise the real estate tax above the Act 1 index set by the state.
The 2019-20 index is set at 3.3 percent for Frazier, meaning the district cannot raise the tax rate by more than 3.3 percent next fiscal year unless it is eligible for and is granted certain exceptions by the state Department of Education.
District business manager Kevin Mildren said Frazier could file for state exceptions to compensate for increased special education and pension costs, but that he felt raising the tax rate beyond the index would not yield substantial additional revenue for the district.
While school directors voted to not exceed the state index, the board could still vote to raise taxes up to the index rate at a maximum increase of 0.6176 mills, according to Mildren.
The current tax rate for the district is 18.7149 mills.
Schools boards are required to pass a preliminary budget by the end of January each year if they intend to raise taxes above the index.
By adopting the opt-out resolution, the district will additional time before being required to submit a preliminary budget.
In a “very preliminary look” at the budget, Mildren said while an increase of less than 1 percent in Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) costs is advantageous to the district, employee health care rates currently under negotiation may put pressure on expenses. Contractual salaries are expected to rise 2.9 to 3 percent.
“We will continue to push very strenuously against expense increases. We know what our revenues are, (and) we try very much to control the expenses,” said Mildren. “We run a very lean operation. There’s not waste in the budget.”
Last year, the school district raised the tax rate by 3.4 percent, the maximum allowed by the state Act 1 index.
The district has increased millage each of the last six years by a cumulative total of 5.3849 mills, a 40 percent rise since 2012. Over that time, the district’s general fund budget has risen from $14.7 million to $18 million.