State College school board OKs preliminary budget with 2.9 percent tax increase

The State College Area school board will be able to raise taxes a maximum of 2.9 percent to make up the shortfall in the district’s $120 million budget for next year.

The school board Monday night approved the district’s preliminary budget that calls for the proposed tax increase in 2013-14. The tax increase could end up lower, as school officials continue to crunch numbers before the budget is finalized in June, but it cannot be higher than 2.9 percent.

Business Administrator Randy Brown will have a refined proposed budget in April that will take into account the district’s state funding and how many employees will take an early retirement incentive.

The state requires school boards to adopt preliminary budgets each year ahead of the primary election in the event the tax increase would exceed the state-mandated limit. Districts then would have to turn to voters on Election Day to approve the tax increase.

State College Area will not need voter approval, as the approved tax increase is within the limits set by the state.

The district can raise property taxes 1.7 percent, according to the state. The district is asking to raise taxes another 1.2 percent to put toward its contributions to its employees’ retirement funds.

The 2.9 percent proposed tax increase was lower than what was presented to the board last week, which was 3.2 percent.

Last week, board President Penni Fishbaine and members Ann McGlaughlin and Jim Pawelczyk said they would not support a budget with a proposed 3.2 percent tax increase.

The budget on Monday, with the 2.9 percent proposed tax increase, met no opposition and passed unanimously.

McGlaughlin said she is hopeful the district will find additional savings.