FARRELL – Even with a budget hole of a little more than $1 million, Farrell Area School District officials have not discussed increasing property taxes, said Superintendent Dr. Lora Adams-King.
Farrell has avoided raising taxes two out of the last three years. The district's property tax rate is 73.7788 mills.
The school board last week adopted a preliminary budget that calls for spending $23,102,502. Adams-King said the district would probably have to use money from its fund balance to fill the budget gap.
But Farrell is also in line to receive more than $3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding, money that is not included in the district's budgetary calculations. Farrell has to spend the COVID-19 relief by 2024.
While the federal government has limited use of those funds to needs that relate directly to the pandemic, that is a potentially broad range. Adams-King talked to the board last week about using the money to hire more teachers and reconfiguring the elementary school to help students make up for instruction lost during the pandemic when schools had to hold online-only classes.
"Nationwide, online learning did not work, so we're trying to play catch up for all the time students missed in school," Adams-King said.
Farrell also is planning to hire as many as four elementary school teachers, some to do academic coaching, others to allow for smaller class sizes.
"We are running a nice, robust summer program," Adams-King said. "Something fun that the kids will want to come to, where they will learn."
Adams-King said the district would like to hire a second high school librarian, which would allow the district to have the library open full-time.
The district is also considering hiring a social worker and a physics teacher.
"We have things to use, but we don't have the manpower," she said.
Adams-King also proposed creating a pre-K program in the school. She said any 4-year-old child living in Farrell would be eligible to attend.
"This is an opportune time to do this," Adams-King said. "It would be under our umbrella, our curriculum, our guidelines."
With a property tax rate of 73.7788 mills, the owner of a property with an assessed value of $10,000 — based on values from the early 1970s, the last time Mercer County assessed properties — would pay about $738. District property owners also pay taxes to Mercer County and the city of Farrell or borough of Wheatland.
The school board has until June 30 to pass its final budget.
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