By Jamie Wiggan
Final 2021-22 spending plans passed late June ensure residents of the Sto-Rox, Carlynton and Cornell districts will all see raises to their property tax bills over the coming year.
The three area districts each fall within the smallest third of public schools and are all struggling with different degrees of financial strain.
The latest spending plan approved by Sto-Rox officials forecasts financial oblivion, even with a tax hike of 0.91 mills, or $91 additional dollars paid by property owners on every $100,000 of assessed property value.
Despite the new rate of 25 mills, the budget approved unanimously by the school board June 24 projects the fund balance deficit will continue to increase throughout the academic year, bringing its negative balance to $9.17 million by August 2022.
The plan forecasts $31.5 million of income and allocates $$3.1 million in expenditures.
With no way to stabilize finances through the local tax base, the board recently approved plans to approach the neighboring Montour district about a merger.
“I can’t keep begging for money when no one else has to,” Sto-Rox Superintendent Frank Dalmas said during a previous interview with Gazette 2.0.
The Carlynton School District is also struggling to stay afloat of mounting expenses, according to budgeting projections presented by budget director Keith Bielby during a public finance committee meeting June 8.
“If we just stay complacent… then we’re going to have a problem a couple of years down the road,” Bielby said. “We have to look out to the future.”
The school board accordingly voted to raise taxes by .95 mils in order to adopt a finalized $30.9 million spending plan when they met June 22. Both items were approved unanimously.
This year’s increase represents the eighth consecutive raise for the district, where property taxes were set at just 19.1 mills in 2013.
The tax increase will mean property owners spend an additional $95 on every $100,000 of appraised property value.
According to Bielby’s presentation, the district would be running a negative fund balance to the tune of $6 million by 2027 if it maintained its former property tax rate of 25.8 mills.
He suggested continual raises — small and regular — would be necessary over future years to keep the district’s finances in check.
The Cornell School Board also had to raise taxes to fend off a spending deficit while passing the district’s latest budget June 17.
The 2021-22 spending plan includes revenues of $15.4 million and expenditures of $15.3 million with a new real estate tax rate set at 24.53 mills. The increase of .852 mills means property owners will pay $85 more on a home with an assessed value of $100,000.
The budget was approved unanimously.
The Cornell district hasn’t raised taxes since 2018, but has since swallowed up almost all of the $1.8 million fund balance it maintained back then.
Montour bucks trend
with projected growth,
no tax rate increase
While neighboring districts struggle along, the Montour School District anticipates substantial revenue growth without raising taxes during the 2021-22 academic year.
School directors approved a finalized budget June 24 that’s about $5 million larger than the previous year’s while keeping property taxes steady at 17.96 mills.
The 2021-22 spending plan calls for total revenues of $75.65 million and total expenditures of $75.16 million. The plan also projects the fund balance to grow by more than $1.2 million during the year, reaching $19.83 million by August 2022.
School officials attribute the jump in revenue to on-going housing construction within the district and an abundance of caution exercised when passing the previous budget during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
— Freelance writer Carrie Moniot contributed to this report.