Bellefonte passes final budget with tax increase
By EMMA GOSALVEZ
BELLEFONTE – The Bellefonte Area School Board has approved the final 2018-19 budget, which includes a 1.0 percent property tax increase.
On Tuesday, the board voted 7-0 to approve the budget. Board members Kimberly Hearn and Lorraine Mulfinger were absent.
The tax increase brings the millage rate to 49.448. The average taxpayer living in the district will see a tax increase of $24.79 for the year.
The 2018-19 budget includes $51,400,000 in expenses, an increase of $1,320,000 from 2017-2018, and $48,965,000 in revenue, an increase of $1,800,000 from last year.
With the recent status change of lacrosse from a club sport to a varsity sport, the board was looking at a potential 3.0 percent tax increase. The change equates to an increase of $115,000 since the previous draft of the athletic fund budget, which will now total $930,000 for the new school year.
To keep property taxes down, district fiscal director Ken Bean presented a variety of options, including the elimination of swimming and gymnastics as varsity sports, per sports criteria. Several members of the public spoke out against the two options, and board members ultimately chose to not consider elimination of the sports for the new year.
The options the board chose to go with to reduce the tax increase are:
r Elimination of capital projects accrual, which amounts to $250,000 less in expenses. The accrual is not required as the board has agreed to move forward with the option of combining schools through a financing option that reconfigures the district’s existing debt and adds new debt.
r Elimination of two vacant aide positions, which saves the district $50,000. The district has 20 regular aides to offset any needed personal care aides.
r To move the real estate tax collection rate to 95 percent, as rates have been close to 96 percent. This equates to $125,000. However, with two unknown variables of assessed value growth and collection rate, the decision to push both values may be aggressive, making the move to a rate of 95 percent still reasonable.
r Elimination of a van purchase, which will be purchased with the current years savings instead. This results in a decrease of $25,000.
r The transfer of curriculum materials to grant funding. A total of $400,000 in curriculum supplies will be purchased from the Ready to Learn grant instead of through 2018-19 revenue.
Another highlight for 2018-19 is the food service budget. For 2018-19, this budget will total $1,665,000, an increase of $15,000 from last year.
Salaries are budgeted for $19,448,943, a 2.2 percent increase from 2017-18. Benefits are budgeted for $14,267,787, which is a 0.9 percent increase from the previous year.