OSCEOLA MILLS — Last minute haggling over a tax increase for Philipsburg- Osceola Area School District saw some switching of party lines for the often-divided board.
Business manager Michael Conte presented them with two options for setting the tax rate. The board could adopt a state-required adjustment of -.05 mills for Centre County residents and -2.21 mills for Clearfield County residents, something faced by districts that straddle county lines to make sure that taxpayers in both counties are shouldering the appropriate amount of burden, or they could increase the tax rate to the limits allowed by the state in a single year, something like a cost of living adjustment to a fixed pension.
Those index numbers would be an increase of 1.25 mills in Centre County and .70 mills in Clearfield, On a home assessed at $50,000, that would translate to tax increases of $27.50 and $36.38 respectively.
Like a COLA, the impact is for more than the present year, but is the foundation for future adjustments.
“We’re losing money without going to the index,” said board member Elizabeth Whitehead. A total of $224,997 per year would be taken off the table, according to Conte, “money we can never get back.”
On the other hand, board member Jim Verbeck, who frequently cites taxpayer impact during his votes, pointed to the audience at Osceola Mills Elementary, saying “You’re going to put an extra burden on all these people.”
With two options, the board took a straw poll on the index before the final vote.
Supporting the increase were Whitehead, Brian Soltis, Linda Bush and President Steve Switala. Opposed were Jim Verbeck, Todd Jeffries, Mary Ellen Holden, Rebecca Timchack and, surprisingly, Robert Selfridge, a vocal supporter of the district’s middle school building project and former board president who has not been shy about his positions on things like district-funded advanced placement testing for high school students.
“We promised we would find a way to make (the building project) work without a tax increase,” said Selfridge, who was out of town but attended and voted via conference call.
The final vote on the adjusted tax rates with no increase passed by a 7-2 vote, with Whitehead and Switala opposing. Switala said he was “disappointed” in the board’s decision.
The board also gave final approval to the 2012-13 general fund budget. The $27.25 million spending plan represents a 1.4 percent increase in expenditures over 2011-12.