Philipsburg-Osceola plans to keep taxes steady

Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District property owners can look forward to another year without a tax increase.

One school board member, however, was hoping for less.

After discussion at the committee meeting two weeks ago, Jim Verbeck went to Tuesday’s meeting with a motion, asking to have taxes dropped by one mill.

P-O’s taxes for the 2014-15 school year are set at 111.23 mills in Clearfield County and 51.59 mills in Centre County. The rates are different because the two counties calculate property value differently and the separate rates ensure that a $50,000 house generates the same amount of tax money on both sides of the county line.

Verbeck has long been a financial watchdog on the board. He is known for questioning any new spending, frequently voting against it while saying the taxpayers cannot afford the expense.

He found no support from the rest of the board for a reduction, however. His motion did not even receive a second and failed to come to a vote.

“I understand Mr. Verbeck’s intentions,” Superintendent Gregg Paladina said. “But we have had no tax increase in four years. This will be the fifth in a row.”

And that is not for lack of trying on the part of the business manager Michael Conte, who has lobbied for a nominal increase during budget planning every year.

P-O has a $29.3 million budget this year and was lauded in January by accounting firm Baker Tilly for its good financial position.

“We finally have the district in a place where we have a hefty fund balance,” Paladina said.

School districts across the state also are bracing for the unexpected as they look ahead to dealing with the looming problem of pension funding.

“Every year we have increases in these things. (Pensions) are going up, salaries continue to go up,” Paladina said.

The superintendent also said he would like to undertake some energy-efficiency projects at the high school and Osceola Mills Elementary, projects that have been proposed in the past but delayed because of lack of funding.

No estimated figure has been proposed for the 2015-16 budget.