pile of dollar bills money

SHARPSVILLE — Residents may see a tax increase, but school officials are still looking for ways to decrease the budget.

A preliminary budget was approved by the Sharpsville board of education at the Monday meeting in an eight-to-one vote, with board member Janice Raykie casting the sole dissenting vote.

Under the preliminary budget, the total expenditures are expected to increase from $18,077,170 to $18,460,875. The real estate tax for a Sharpsville home with the average assessed property value of $17,250 would increase by $33.90, raising the property tax from 78.5 to 80.5 mills, Senior Business Manager Jaime Roberts said.

An early draft of the preliminary budget presented in February called for a 4-mill tax increase, which would have raised property taxes to 82.5 percent.

However, school officials were able to lower the recommended tax increase due to more accurate numbers becoming available as the school year wound down, as well as reviewing any contracts that were up for renewal.

Some costs to the district also ended up not increasing as much as previously expected, such as the Pennsylvania State Educators Retirement System, or PSERs, which will only increase from 33.43 percent to 34.29 percent, Roberts said.

“We still project it to increase over the next four years, but it won’t be anything like the increases we’ve been subject to in the past,” she said.

Though she commended the finance committee for being able to lower the projected tax increase from four mills to two mills, Raykie said she still voted against the preliminary budget because of a 13 percent decline in the school district’s enrollment since 2010. Taxes have also been raised by 13.5 mills in that same time, she said.

“Right now we’re looking at raising taxes by a couple mills, so for a household that’s almost $40, and once you raise taxes they don’t go away,” Raykie said.

Part of the budget will be planned renovations for the middle and high school building, which underwent its last major renovation in 1992. However, the project hit a snag when the bids received came in higher than the estimated cost of $6 million.

The Sharpsville Area School District is also pursuing a one-to-one technology initiative, where students in grades seven through nine will receive a Chromebook. Purchasing the necessary Chromebooks will cost the school district about $57,000, Roberts said.

The board of education will hold a final vote on the preliminary budget during their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. June 19. The deadline for the school district to have a budget in place is June 30.

In the meantime, school officials will “leave no stone unturned” as they continue to find ways to trim the budget before its final vote, Roberts said.

“As always, it continues to be a working progress,” she said.

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