Proposed Philipsburg-Osceola budget seeks first tax increase in years

Michael Conte is asking the Philipsburg-Osceola school board for more money.

The district’s business manager said that expenses are rising by almost a million dollars for the 2014-15 school year.

Actually, Conte’s figures show about $1.5 million in increases from areas like maintenance, salaries and health care, but that figure is balanced by more cuts in other areas, bringing the total budget to $29,351,389, up $958,637 from the current year.

“Salary reductions were aided by not replacing certain positions,” said Conte, citing $221,984 in savings.

He said the administration is emphasizing curriculum development, technology and capital projects in the proposed spending plan.

Superintendent Gregg Paladina said the district has not raised taxes in at least three years. At the same time, the actual taxes have decreased in moves that the district has been required to make.

He said that the district would like to raise taxes enough to recover the revenue ground lost through state-mandated adjustments.

“I know that we have had a decrease the past three years. With our tax equalization rate in two counties, it has decreased as much as 2 percent in Clearfield County and a little less in Centre,” said Paladina.

P-O straddles the county line, with taxes in Clearfield now at 111.23 mills while Centre taxes are 51.59 mills. That doesn’t mean that Clearfield residents pay more money.

Instead, it means that the district balances them so that a house worth $50,000 in Centre County is paying the same amount of tax as one in Clearfield County, despite the fact that the two areas evaluate property differently.

The district is required to tweak that annually to maintain the balance. Last year, Centre rates rose by .03 mills while Clearfield’s fell by 4.27.

“I favor a slight increase to help restore our rax rates to the 2011 level,” said Paladina. “Neither the board or I favor hitting our residents with a large increase.”

Conte has advocated for slight increases each year to prevent the district from being forced to implement a larger increase later that would be a harder pill for residents to swallow.

While he is requesting a 3 percent increase, he said he will be happy with the board returning any increase at all.

Paladina said the district anticipates having a fund balance to work with at the end of the fiscal year, but it doesn’t want to depend on that remaining constant.

“What makes us nervous is that the health care and retirement costs along with normal costs of doing business are increasing by at least a million dollars when we only have a $300,000 increase in funds from the state,” he said.

“We can get through with around a one percent increase.”