JS School Board approves tax increase

By PAT CROSSLEY

For The Express

JERSEY SHORE — Property owners in the Jersey Shore Area School District can expect to pay more in taxes next year.

On a 5-3 vote Monday night, the board approved increasing taxes.

Voting for the tax increase were Karen Stover, John Pecchia, Mary Thomas, Kelley Wasson and Craig Allen. Voting no were Merrill Sweitzer, Michelle Stemler and Harry Brungard. Christopher Fravel was absent.

By voting to go to 100 percent of the Act 1 index, $49.97 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value will be added to tax bills in Clinton County and $54.02 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value in Lycoming County.

With the increase, the tax millage for the 2019-20 fiscal year will be 13.4605 in Clinton County and 18.2915 in Lycoming County.

The board discussed at length the need for increasing taxes at this time. Ben Enders, district business manager, told the board that expenditures in wages, benefits and the district’s bill for students attending charter schools were the drivers behind the increase.

Enders noted that salary increases accounted for $550,000, benefits, $300,000 and charter schools around $500,000 in the budget.

In the midst of the discussion about whether or not to increase the tax rate, board members stressed the need to find a permanent solution to the ongoing budget deficits over the past few years.

“We have got to look at something down the road because if we don’t, we’re going to be taxing to the index every year. I can see us filing for an exception to tax above that index,” said Brungard. “We have to do something down the road and I don’t care what we do with this tonight. I can understand going to 100 percent. I hate to see it, but it’s going to create more revenue.”

If the board had not voted for the tax increase, the district would have been forced to use almost $1 million from the fund balance to cover the deficit for the upcoming year.

“I realize we’re going to take a major hit if we decide to take a million dollars from our fund balance, but reciprocating that to those who are relying upon us to make wise decisions, we’re just passing the buck off to the rest of the community that we can’t take a hit, but they should. I’m not okay with that. We’re not being fiscally responsible expecting others to just fund the bills and float everything that we decide to do. I think some of the harder decisions we have not actually made. We need to,” said board member Michelle Stemler.

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