Phoenixville School Board OKs preliminary budget with 3.1% tax hike

PHOENIXVILLE — A preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year was adopted by the Phoenixville Area School Board in a 6-1 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Board member Paul Slaninka cast the lone vote against the budget plan and board members Kenneth Butera and Dave Ziev were absent.

According to a presentation posted on the school district’s website, the preliminary budget is set at $81,754,535. That stands as an approximate $4 million increase from the $77,743,531 budget for 2012-13.

To cover the preliminary budget’s shortfall of $2,062,231, a tax increase of approximately 3.1 percent would be required. The mill rate would go from 28.24 to 29.15.

An increase of that magnitude is very unlikely, said Stan Johnson, Phoenixville Area School District’s executive director of operations.

“It’s a preliminary budget, we have a lot of work to do to get it to a more reasonable budget,” Johnson said. “We don’t expect the residents to have to swallow a 3.1 percent increase.”

Budget documents indicated the maximum mill rate allowed by the Act 1 Index, capping tax increases at 1.7 percent before exceptions, would be 28.72.

A property in the district assessed at the median value of $133,540, according to last year’s numbers, would see an increase of $121.52 per year under the 3.1 percent increase. If the district stays at the 1.7 percent allowed by Act 1, the increase would be $64.10 per year.

“The one (Act 1) exception we are going to be applying for is (the Public School Employees’ Retirement System),” Johnson said.

Phoenixville does not qualify for capital bond or special education funding, Johnson said. In 2012-13, the district qualified for the capital bond exception but did not use it or the pension exception. Taxes increased by 1.66 percent for 2012-13, under the index’s threshold.

For 2013-14, federal funding is scheduled to increase slightly, according to the budget documents, from $755,000 for this year to $815,000. However, state funding dropped by approximately $1.5 million.

As such, local funding will have to make up the gap.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.