Tax increase to be included in proposed budget

The Warren County School District’s new budget may include a tax increase.

On Thursday, the school district’s Board of Directors asked Jim Grosch, Director of Business Services, to include a tax increase of one mill in the proposed budget that they will review at a special meeting on May 26.

A tax increase of one mill would generate approximately $400,000 in revenue for the school district.

“One mill would bring in around 400K” Grosch told the board. “It may be a little less, but should be right around there.”

The potential tax increase is not finalized and has not been voted on. But, after some discussion, the school board felt having a proposed budget with the tax increase included would be beneficial.

“Who wants to increase taxes? I certainly don’t. If we did a voice vote around this room right now, I’m sure everyone else would say no too,” said board member Joe Colosimo. “But we can’t ignore the financial scenario that our district is in.”

“We would be asking a lot with a tax increase,” board member Paul Mangione replied. “We need to remember that the county is increasing taxes too, so we need to be cognizant of what another tax increase would do. We have many people living in this county with a fixed income that could be really effected by another tax increase.”

Board member Marcy Morgan suggested that the board not increase taxes.

“I think we should take a year off from raising taxes,” she said. “I don’t think it will make a huge difference if we do raise them.”

Colosimo worried that skipping a year could put the district in an even bigger hole.

“We know the financials aren’t getting better,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation to be in. I don’t think the district can afford to skip a year. You saw what happened in the City of Erie when they skipped years.”

The Erie School District’s 3,400 high school students will attend Central Tech and Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy next year after the board — facing a financial struggle — voted last month to move ahead with a consolidation plan. A formal vote is scheduled for June 22 due to a state-imposed timeline for closing public schools.

The need for a tax increase here stems from issues in Harrisburg, according to Stewart and Mangione.

“We are being put in an unfortunate spot,” Stewart said. “They (lawmakers) are addressing their budget issues by shifting costs to the school districts.”

Mangione agreed.

“Harrisburg has made this scenario for us,” he said. “We are the ones who will take the flak for it, but the elected officials are the ones putting us here. We need to bark up their tree a little bit.”

The board eventually agreed to include the increase in the proposed budget with the option to not include it in the final budget.

“As an ‘old person’ with a fixed income, I have to agree that we need to include the increase in the proposal,” said board member Tom Knapp.

“As long as it’s possible that we can remove it later, we can include it” said board member Jack Werner. “But we have increased taxes five out of the last seven years, that’s significant.”

“The guidance you give me today is not set in stone,” Grosch replied. “If other things come to light the board can certainly make a decision to change.”

The board will review a proposed final budget at next week’s meeting and will then have 31 days before a final vote. A final budget must be voted on and approved by June 30.