P-O leaders back off proposed tax increase

Last month, Philipsburg-Osceola’s administration was asking for a tax increase. This month, the district’s financial picture is apparently rosier.

Business manager Michael Conte has been the voice of caution for years, requesting and being denied a tax increase year to year. Now, however, Conte appears to be believing his own predictions enough to back off his earlier request for a 3 percent bump.

“I take this budget very seriously,” Conte told the board Tuesday.

During the past month, additional belt tightening has trimmed the budget even further. The 2014-15 spending plan now sits at $23.3 million, thanks to more than $400,000 in personnel savings. Eight positions are being eliminated, including an elementary music teacher and an art teacher. Superintendent Gregg Paladina said that those positions are all being eliminated through attrition, and no district employees are losing their jobs as a result of the dissolutions.

The other part of the tax turnaround comes from the district’s fund balance.

That nest egg is where the district will make up the $175,000 difference between what is budgeted and what revenue is expected. Conte never likes borrowing from the fund balance, but this year, it’s a little different.

The state sent guidelines for what percentage of a district’s budget should be held in that reserve. According to those numbers, the district should hold onto at least $2.3 million.

Philipsburg’s fund balance stands at $3.75 million.

“That’s why I feel confident,” Conte said.

Taxes will still have to be equalized, the annual tweaking that the state demands to balance taxes betweeen the district’s two counties with different tax rates. Centre’s taxes are expected to go up 0.5 mills while Clearfield’s would nudge down by 1.21.