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SHARPSVILLE — Property taxes could increase under Sharpsville School Board’s proposed preliminary budget.

The board discussed its 2020-21 preliminary budget at its meeting Monday. The budget calls for $18,750,795 in general fund expenditures, an increase of more than $350,000 from this year.

Sharpsville is projected to spend $18,394,477 in the 2019-20 school year.

School district documents indicate property taxes would increase 4.5 mills to 84.5 mills under the spending plan. One mill generates $58,140.29 for the district.

Property taxes on land valued at $17,280, the average assessed property value in Sharpsville, would increase from $1,391 to $1,460, Sharpsville Senior Business Manager Jaime Roberts said.

Last month, the board voted against a resolution that would have prevented the board from increasing taxes above than the property tax index of 3.9 percent set by the state Department of Education. Under the index, Sharpsville could increase taxes by 3.1395 mills.

The December resolution failed unanimously, with board member Janice Raykie absent.

If school officials choose to raise taxes beyond the index, they will have to apply before Feb. 13 to the Department of Education. Roberts said the state usually issues a exception ruling within 30 days. If that fails, the district would have to hold a referendum in the April 28 primary.

Roberts said she expects the school to be approved for the exception because of the school district’s special education program, which is budgeted for $2,796,878 for 2020-21. This would be an increase of $181,000 from the current school year, Roberts said.

“I think that the three areas that would account for the increases are wages, benefits and special ed costs,” she said.

The Pennsylvania State Educators Retirement System pension premium will also increase next year, from 34.29 percent of the school district’s payroll to 34.51 percent. This year, the school district will pay about $2.6 million, but will be reimbursed for part of that, Roberts said.

“It’s probably the smallest increase that we’ve seen over the past few years,” she said.

Exact numbers are still coming in as the end of this current school year draws near, and Roberts said school officials will continue to adjust the preliminary budget and look for ways to cut costs before putting the budget up for a final vote.

Sharpsville school board Vice President Jerry Trontel echoed Roberts at the work session, and said that the preliminary budget presented at this time last year called for higher increases than the budget that was eventually approved. He also encouraged the board members to offer input when looking for potential savings in the budget.

“We were able to get it down to a two-mill increase, we brought in an SRO and we were able to implement our one-to-one technology initiative,” Trontel said.

The Sharpsville Area School District must have a final budget in place by June 30. The school board’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Jan. 21, in Sharpsville Area Elementary School.

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