WEST MIDDLESEX Board wants taxes lower in budget

School directors said the size of the tax increase should be cut in half.
WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. -- School directors knew they were facing a tax increase for next year, but they weren't prepared for the budget presented to them Wednesday.
Superintendent Albert Jones handed the board a 2001-2002 spending plan totaling $10.7 million and calling for a 29.8-mill increase in property taxes.
That's $1 million more than the current budget.
"We weren't expecting this," said Thomas Hubert, board president, adding that the board's immediate directive to the superintendent is, "Do it over. Get it lower."
One mill generates $20,000 in revenue and costs the average residential taxpayer about $6.
A 29.8-mill increase would boost the average tax bill by nearly $180 a year.
The current millage is 132.2.
Must be increase: Hubert said the school board knows it must enact at least a 10-mill increase for debt service to help pay for the $8 million renovation of the Oakview Elementary School.
Another 10 mills will be required in the 2002-2003 budget to complete that financing, he said.
However, the board is unwilling to accept a 20-mill increase for operating expenses in the 2001-2002 budget, he said.
A more realistic figure is just 5 mills for that purpose, he said.
No one liked the proposed budget but the board had to introduce it to allow the 30 days of public display required by law before final adoption, he said.
State rule: The state requires school districts to have new budgets in place by June 30 of each year.
Jones warned the board that cutting the budget could result in staff reductions and cuts in programs.
"At this point, anything is fair game," Hubert said, noting the board has scheduled four budget work sessions during June in an effort to trim the spending plan.
In addition to the $200,000 needed for debt service, the proposed budget shows a $150,000 jump in special education costs and substantial increases in gasoline and heating costs, Hubert said.
The board raised taxes 2 mills last year, one to help buy a school bus and one to put into capital reserves.

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