Jennifer Schorr's Blog

May 10, 2011

State releases local tax relief amounts

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011; Last Updated: Tue. May 10, 2011, 12:30pm

http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2011/05/10/news/doc4dc8531dcf583767265945.txt?viewmode=fullstory

By The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — State officials have allocated the $612 million in gambling proceeds that will be used to lower property taxes for Pennsylvania homeowners.

According to a release from Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis, the 2004 Gaming Act established a property tax relief fund that provides funding to school districts to be used to reduce property taxes.

“In Pennsylvania, we are all financially responsible for educating our youth and in difficult economic times, the burden of high property taxes can be overwhelming,” Tomalis said.

School districts will receive the funds in two equal installments in August and October, but homeowners should see a reduction in their property tax bills this summer.

The state Department of Education says the average homeowner will see a $200 break in property taxes this year. The $612 million available for tax relief is down slightly from $616 million last year.

Locally, amounts range from $146 for Boyertown area taxpayers to $369 for Pottstown homeowners.

The amount of the tax discount for each district is available at the Department of Education website.

Following is a breakdown of local school districts:

BERKS

• Boyertown: Total district allocation — $1,796,220; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 12,308; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $146

•  Daniel Boone: Total district allocation — $1,197,237; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 5,239; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $229

•  Exeter: Total district allocation — $1,354,650; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 7,476; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $181

CHESTER

• Owen J. Robers: Total district allocation — $1,437,170; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 9,101; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $158

• Phoenixville: Total district allocation — $1,307,655; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 8,761; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $149

MONTGOMERY

• Perkiomen Valley: Total district allocation — $1,702,467; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 9,021; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $189

• Pottsgrove: Total district allocation — $1,505,371; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 5,555; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $271

• Pottstown: Total district allocation — $1,616,270; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 4,377; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $369

• Spring-Ford: Total district allocation — $2,309,531; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 12,144; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $190

• Upper Perkiomen: Total district allocation — $1,108,885; Number of qualifying homes or farms — 5,996; Estimated relief per homestead/farmstead — $185

March 25, 2011

OJR board dips into reserve to cover cuts

Published: Friday, March 25, 2011; Last Updated: Fri. Mar 25, 2011, 6:47am

http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2011/03/25/news/srv0000011234707.txt?viewmode=fullstory

By Laura Catalano

Special to The Mercury

SOUTH COVENTRY — The Owen J. Roberts School District won’t have to make significant cuts to programs or services in the 2011-12 budget, but will likely have to do so in future years if the proposed state budget is approved.

At a finance committee meeting Monday night, the School Board learned that the district would receive $1.5 million less from the state than it had originally anticipated for 2011-12. Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a reduction of $549.9 million in education funding statewide.

The $1.5 million in cuts to OJR would return the school district to 2006-07 state funding levels, District Business Administrator Jaclin Krumrine told the board.

“Although we were prepared and planned for about half of this amount, we were completely blindsided by the extent of the reductions,” Krumrine said, reading from a prepared statement. “The governor’s 2011-12 budget reduction, combined with the recent economic downturn will make it very difficult to maintain our current level of programs and services into the foreseeable future.”

The state’s proposed cuts include $446,941 sliced from basic instructional subsidy, $279,000 from charter school reimbursement funding, $187,000 in accountability block grant funding and $548,440 from social security expenditure reimbursements.

Krumrine explained that the board and administration had anticipated the cut to instructional subsidy and a portion of the remaining reductions and had budgeted for it. However, about $750,000 was not expected.

Nevertheless, the board has been able to make up that difference in the proposed 2011-12 budget by reducing part of a planned transfer from the general operating fund to the capital reserve fund by $751,000.

Prior to that, the board had also added $1 million from the fund balance to the proposed general fund budget, and had reduced the budgetary reserve by $200,000. This brings the proposed budget total down to $83,799,691, which is significantly less than $85,274,017 preliminary budget presented earlier this year.

However, the district will still need to levy a 2.48 percent tax hike in order to balance the 2011-12 budget. Because the projected tax increase is above that allowed under the state’s Act One index, the district has applied to Pennsylvania Department of Education for exceptions. The district qualifies for a total of $985,199 in exceptions for special education spending and retirement contributions, but is only applying for $628,000, Krumrine said.

However, in future years the Act One index will be lower, and the district will be faced with fewer funds from both state and local sources. This will almost certainly necessitate cuts to programs or services.

“We know that the next two or three years are going to be very challenging,” Krumrine said. “We want to start looking now at areas of the budget we can cut. We don’t want to be reactionary.”

Krumrine and school board President John Stone both promised to work with the community in making decisions about possible future budget cuts.

“As a school district community our long term challenge is to determine what educational goals are most important to us and to collectively find the most productive and cost efficient avenue to meet those goals,” Stone said. “These discussions and decisions will not be easy, the choices will be difficult and they will take place over many years.”

The board discussed several possible cost saving options, including trimming $71,000 from the transportation budget in 2011-12 by reducing activity and late buses. Currently, the district runs activity buses five days a week. Those buses pick up students at the high school and middle school at 5:00 p.m. In addition, the district also has late buses that pick up students at 3:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Gail Gola, director of transportation, has proposed eliminating the Friday activity bus completely so there would be no late bus service on Fridays. She has also recommended eliminating the 5 p.m. bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while maintaining the 3:45 buses. Therefore, there would be late bus service four days a week, with a 5 p.m. bus on Mondays and Wednesdays and a 3:45 bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Students typically use the 3:45 bus rather than the later bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and very few students ride on Fridays, Gola said.

“It’s been a proven fact for over three years that Friday’s ridership has been null and void,” Gola said. “On Fridays we have six buses go out with only 10 children riding them.”

As another cost saving measure, the board also discussed the possibility of no longer offering ninth grade students the option of participating in an exploratory career program at the vocational technical school. Superintendent Joel DiBartolomeo said administrators would look into offering a similar program at the high school.

“We could probably serve more students more efficiently for the same cost by bringing it in-house,” he said.

He did not, however, recommend making a change for the 2011-12 budget, since students have already enrolled in the program.

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