FARRELL School board budget raises taxes by 5 mills

Two school directors said further spending cuts should have been made before the board considered a property tax increase.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The average Farrell Area School District resident will see his property tax bill rise between $30 and $35 a year in a new budget adopted by the school board.
The $10,846,101 spending plan needed a 5-mill property tax increase to balance. The board voted 7-2 Monday to approve the budget and millage.
One mill costs the average residential taxpayer between $6 and $7 a year.
School directors Joseph Costa and Edward Zappa cast the dissenting votes on both, saying further spending cuts should have been made before taxes were raised.
Costa said the size of some of the coaching staffs could have been reduced, while Zappa said Farrell could have shut down its swimming pool for a year at a savings of about $84,000.
Charter school tuition: Ronald Pendel, business administrator, said the 5-mill increase will generate $85,000. Some of that will be used to offset a $125,000 increase in gas heating costs, but most of it will go to pay the tuition bill of Farrell students who are going to charter schools, he said.
Superintendent Richard Rubano said the board made numerous spending cuts. The budget is down about $150,000 from the tentative budget introduced in May.
The board also decided to take $153,000 from its fund balance (the equivalent of a school district savings account) to help balance the final version of the spending plan, he said.
Board members Lester Robinson Jr. and Ronald Weston pointed out that 80 percent of the budget is in fixed costs such as employee contracts and utility and maintenance expenses.
The rest is programming money that keeps the academic curriculum strong and it can't be sacrificed, Robinson said.
There was no choice but to raise the millage. The kids come first, Weston said.
School director James Guerino called the tax increase "very reasonable" because it allows Farrell to continue to improve its academic standards.

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