By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
MIDDLEBURG — The Midd-West school board voted 7-2 Monday night to adopt a $32.8 million budget for 2013-14. In a separate action, the members voted 6-3 to approve a tax increase of 3.6 mills, which will mean $84.60 a year for the average homeowner in the district.
The average home’s assessed value is $23,422, according to Lynn Y. Naugle, business manager.
“But since over 57 percent of owner-occupied homes in the district are assessed lower than average, the majority of homeowners will see a smaller increase than $84.60,” she said.
Voting for the budget were directors Victor L. Abate, M. Richard Auker, James H. Aurand, Dana J. Kemberling, Nancy O. Kroh, Corey L. Smith and Shawn A. Sassaman. Voting no were Ronald L. Hoffman and Ronald E. Wilson.
Voting for the tax increase were Auker, Aurand, Kemberling, Kroh, Smith and Sassaman. Voting no were Abate, Hoffman and Wilson.
The 2012-13 budget totaled $31.3 million.
The increase covers rising expenses, particularly retirement benefits, health insurance and debt service.
Before the vote, Wilson asked why a tax increase is necessary. “Why not take monies from the reserve fund? Could we do that?” he asked.
Naugle said doing that would leave the fund in a tenuous position, particularly considering the mandated pension and retirement payments the district will be forced to pay over the next few years.
That gave Superintendent Wesley Knapp an opening to comment on why the situation calls for a tax increase and why things might get worse in the future.
“The governor is fond of saying that he has not raised taxes,” Knapp said. “He hasn’t, but we do in order to meet our obligations. Our costs are rising, but funding has remained level.”
In addition, the district is paying about $1 million a year for cyber schools, another mandated cost.
Knapp said: “Unless the state starts funding education better, things will get worse. We need to put pressure on our legislators.”