The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 18, 2013

Midd-West director ticked off that tax hike can't be reduced

— MIDDLEBURG — Midd-West school board member Ronald E. Wilson left Thursday’s special public meeting in frustration after being told the district will not be able to use an extra $151,000 in state aid to reduce a 3.6-mill tax hike under the approved $32.8 million budget for 2013-14.

“So you wasted my time,” Wilson told Superintendent Wesley Knapp and Business Manager Lynn Naugle before walking out of the meeting.

Wilson had requested in early July the special meeting be held after the state budget was passed and Midd-West was confirmed to receive $151,000 more funding for the year than expected. He did so with the intention of proposing the additional funds be used to reduce the approved tax increase of 3.6 mills, which will raise the tax bill for the average homeowner by $84.60.

One mill collected by the district is equivalent to $162,000, Naugle said.

However, Naugle informed the board Thursday that she was advised by district solicitor Orris Knepp that the approved tax rate could not be changed because the deadline for reopening the budget had passed and the district would not be able to comply with the school code that requires a new budget and tax increase be advertised and put on public display for 30 days.

The answer did not please a visibly frustrated Wilson, who wondered why he wasn’t informed earlier.

He was already upset about having to ask for the budget discussion to be moved up higher on the four-page agenda. By the time the board began discussing the budget issue Thursday night, they had met for 30 minutes in executive session to discuss personnel and administrative evaluations and another 40 minutes in open session on building construction.

“Everybody seems to be long-winded tonight. The primary purpose for being here is the budget, so let’s get down to business,” Wilson said.

Other board members were not happy to be informed about the limitations regarding the reopening of district budgets after the state budget is approved and said they would be contacting state legislators and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” director James H. Aurand said.

Naugle pointed out that she had expected additional state funds would be available. “It would be unfair if we were expecting a windfall,” she said. “But it isn’t a surprise we got the extra money.”

The money will be used to reduce the district’s deficit to about $270,000, allowing the district to retain $151,000 in the reserve fund. The money will be needed in the future, Naugle said, especially as state retirement fund costs are expected to double in the next five years.

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