School board proposes tax increase

A tax increase of .58 mills, equal to an additional $14.50 per year in real estate taxes, is being proposed by the St. Marys Area School District Board of Directors for the 2011-2012 school year. Currently a property owner with a $50,000 home is paying $794.50 per year for school real estate taxes. This would increase to $809 for next year. Superintendent Ann Kearney provided several options to school board members Thursday evening during their monthly workshop, where she presented the district's preliminary budget for 2011-2012. Among the board's options were to propose a tax increase, recommend taking the anticipated $136,000 budget shortfall for next year from the district's reserve/fund balance or cutting additional programs and services. In accordance with state law, school districts are required to present a budget during their May meetings. The budgets must remain on public display for 30 days."I don't know how they (the government) expect school boards to pass our budgets, even though the state and federal government have not passed their own budgets," Kearney said. Fifty-seven percent of the school district's budget comes from local revenue, 41 percent from the state and two percent from the federal government.Locally, this translates into just over $13 million in revenue. Local source revenue has remained at just over $13 million since 2008."Our local revenue of half our budget has been stagnant, yet our expenses continue to grow without our control," Kearney explained, referencing the increased costs for natural gas, books and other necessities.Budget revenues and expenditures for the 2010-2011 school year are balanced at just over $24 million. However, Kearney noted this is not the case for the 2011-2012 school year, as the unbalanced budget shows projected overall revenues will decrease to about $23.4 million from the previous year, with expenditures being more than revenue at $23.5 million. Next year's revenue was projected based on the average of the past three years. Kearney noted that on the plus side, the district has a young staff and does not anticipate many personnel retiring over the next five years. Benefits are also projected to cost less next year."We have been careful about monitoring our expenditures. We have cut half a million dollars in expenditures for next year and over the past two years we have cut 11 professional positions, 2.5 secretarial positions and one technology position," Kearney said. "Our administrators have cut their budgets by 10 percent. Our expectations of expenditures for 2011 and beyond is $1 million or more a year."With a tax increase for 2011-2012, the district would be ahead just over $6,000. However, in the next several years, even with at least a .5 mill increase, the district will face shortfalls projected at $323,000 in 2012-13, $585,000 in 2013-14 and $862,000 in 2014-15. The value of 1 mill is equal to $285,000.