By Peter Becker
WALLENPAUPACK -The proposed $63.2 million budget and tax rates for Wallenpaupack Area School District were presented May 13, with the smallest tax increase request in four years.
On June 17, the School Board is expected to vote for passage of the budget, which has to be in place by June 30. The final tax levels may be lower than what were announced, depending on decision of the state legislature on education funding, and another month of real estate valuation.
The proposed tax rate for Wayne County property owners in Wallenpaupack Area School District is 13.1517 mills.
The proposed tax rate for Pike County property owners in Wallenpaupack Area School District is 66.4832 mills.
While the numbers are wildly different, this is due to differences in property assessments between the two counties. State law requires the conversion of assessed value to market value, with the result being that everyone pays a fair share of tax.
The increase in Wayne County is 1.11 percent more than the current level; in Pike the increase is 1.96 percent higher than the present tax level. In both cases the percentage increases are the lowest since 2010-2011.
These projected tax rates are the lowest among school districts serving Pike County and the second lowest among districts in Wayne County. Only Susquehanna Area School District, which serves a small part on northern Wayne County, has a lower tax rate.
The proposed budget totals $63,219,130.00.
District Fund Balance and Reserves include:
• General Fund $4,321,319
• Designated Health Fund $2,767,800
• Designated PSERS Fund (pension) $2,292,884
• Designated GASB 45 (post employment benefits) $1,314,721
• Capital Reserve Fund $396,521.
New revenues are less than in the past. These include Assessed Value Growth $107,525; Property Taxes $834,466; Realty Transfer Taxes $25,000 and the proposed state Basic Education Subsidy of $111,693.
Governor Corbett proposed a level for the Basic Education Subsidy, but School Districts are waiting to learn the outcome of the final state budget, which also must be passed by June 30.
New expenditures include $283,956 for School Resource Officers; $683,865 for Pension; $685,865 for Health Benefits; $13,000 for Insurance and $308,949 for Debt Service.
Silsby stated that the employee health benefits are at their lowest cost in the 12 years he has been superintendent.
The pension cost, however, is up 37 percent.
A lot will depend on the final state budget. The Governor's pension plan would trim $296,000 from the Wallenpaupack budget if it passes.
Insurance is up 10.7 percent.
Wallenpaupack has been able to save $1,511,313 this year from not filling 12 positions for the 2013-2014 school year after personnel announced plans to retire. Since 2010 the District eliminated 44.5 positions through attrition, saving over $6 million.
Silsby noted that they were able to accomplish this without compromising educational programs or impairing desired class sizes. Personnel reduction has been concurrent with a drop in enrollment over the years. Since 2008 the District has reduced by 499 students. The current enrollment is 3,402.