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School board stresses, it’s a ‘preliminary’ budget 3.88 percent tax increase possible
By: MICHAEL C. UPTON Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
Warwick School District Tuesday approved a preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year, which district officials said would change before final adoption in June.
The $64.4 million budget carries a 3.88 percent tax increase, resulting in a projected property tax increase of .72 mills, setting the millage rate at 19.29 percent. The resulting $122 tax increase on a home with the average assessed value of $170,000 would raise total property tax paid to $3,279 annually.
"I just want to reiterate … the budget we passed tonight — there is a key word in that — it’s called preliminary for a reason. A lot of work has gone into it so far. A lot more work will be done," said school board president Dr. Timothy Quinn.
Quinn stressed that board meetings and budget discussions at both the Committee of the Whole and Finance and Legal Committee meetings are open to the public.
"There will be a lot of discussion about (the budget). Remember that word, ‘preliminary,’" he said.
The district projected this proposed tax increase in prior years. School board members have continued to work against increased costs and reduced revenues by drawing from the fund balance and raising taxes. Projections for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets show increases of 3.01 and 3.02 percent, respectively.
In the past, district business manager David Zerbe has shown the committees and the board as a whole several versions of the budget before a final budget is presented in May. During the meeting Tuesday, board members made no indication of how low the increase could drop below the preliminary .72 mil increase. Since 2007-08 millage rates have continued to increase by .3 in 2008-9, .7 in 2009-10, .26 in 2010-11, and .24 in 2011-12.
In the preliminary 2013-14 budget, 65 percent of district revenue comes from local taxes (as opposed to 63 percent last year). The state is expected to provide 27 percent of the district’s funding, with the less than one percent coming in federal aid. At 56 percent, instructional costs make up the biggest expenditure in the preliminary budget. Instructional costs total $36 million. More than $16 million goes into support services, making up 25 percent of expenditures.
The next meeting of the Finance and Legal Committee will be held on March 14 at 6 p.m. in district office board room. Committee Chair Darryl Miller called the current version of the budget an "early form."
In other tax news, the board elected Elaine Mathias, assistant to the business manager, as the deputy tax collector for the Borough of Lititz and Warwick Township. Her term will last until 2017. Mathias was in attendance Tuesday, but did not address the board.
In other news, the board approved the 2013-14 school calendar. Students will now have two half-days before Thanksgiving break. An additional weather make-up day is added to the calendar; both Feb. 14 and March 7 are slated as teacher in-service days, but will be considered make-up days if necessary. The first day for students is Sept. 4, and the proposed last day of school is June 11.
Student representative Abigail Barthe reported this year’s prom will be held at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square and the event will be shared with Hempfeild High School. She did not know why the dance was a dual event. Planners are considering the option of busing students into the city on the evening of April 27. More SCHOOL BOARD, page A3