HERMITAGE — The Hermitage School Board unanimously approved a preliminary 2019-20 budget that holds property taxes steady.

The preliminary budget calls for total spending of $33,183,375. The real estate tax rate would remain at 63.907 mills, so the tax bill for a property with an assessed value at the city’s average of $24,450, the tax bill would remain at $1,562.63. The 1 percent earned income tax would not change, either.

The preliminary spending plan’s overall cost is a 1.8 percent increase over the 2018-19 budget’s overall expenditures of about $32.6 million. That includes an increased contribution to the state’s Pennsylvania School Employee Retirement System, or PSERS, to 34.29 percent from 33.43 percent of employee wages.

To keep the pension system solvent, the state has required a dramatic, seven-fold increase in public school districts’ contributions, up from 4.78 percent in 2009-10. But the rate of increase is leveling off, Hermitage Superintendent Dr. Dan Bell said.

He said projections through 2026 show the PSERS contribution increasing to 39 percent of salaries.

“The increases to get to this point were very difficult, but it seems that all the big increases for the PSERS are behind us,” Bell said.

Another cost-saving measure for the Hermitage School District was the elimination of one position when a secretary retired. The person’s duties were added to someone already on staff.

On the revenue side, Hermitage stands to receive more money from the state – an additional $152,000 in its basic educational subsidy and $34,080 more in special-education funding. The school district’s tax base also showed a “modest” local increase, which allowed the revenue to match the increased expenditures, Bell said.

The district has no major renovation plans that will affect the budget, though the school board voted Monday to approve a project to resurface the Hickory High School auditorium stage. Sports Floors Inc., of Koppel, Pa., will do the work for $62,500.

The current stage, made of pine, is about 20 years old. The replacement would be made of maple, which is expected to last about 40 years. Bell said boards are coming apart in 25 to 35 places, with the surface cracking open and splintering wood.

“Basically we have a surface where there’s areas that are not level, and we have a lot of productions that happen on that stage,” he said.

Funding for the stage project will come from the school district’s capital reserve budget. The district has not established a timetable for the project.

After Monday night’s vote by the school board, the preliminary budget will be available at the school district’s central office for review. The board is expected to pass a final budget in a meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 20.

“We don’t anticipate any major changes, but we’ll continue making adjustments as necessary and looking for ways to cut costs,” the superintendent said.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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