District seeks tax increase permission

The Warren County School District has announced its intention to seek permission to increase taxes above the state-allowable index.

A “Notice of Act 1 Referendum Exception” statement has been posted to the school district’s website. Act 1 exceptions permit school districts to raise taxes above the index for dedicated purposes which include grandfathered debt, electoral debt, special education expenditures and retirement contributions.

The district has utilized the retirement contribution exception in the past to help cover increases to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, commonly known as PSERS.

“We will be submitting for PSERS and looking at Special Education as well,” WCSD Business Manager Jim Grosch said on Thursday.

The district did not utilize the exception in the current budget, but did in 2012-2013. The exception generated $315,892, or .78 of a mill in new revenue then.

A budget presentation given by the school district administration in January indicated that its contribution to PSERS was expected to jump by $1.536 million for the 2014-2015 budget.

As a result, according to the notice, “The School District intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as required by Act 1, for an exception, or exceptions, allowing for the increase of the real estate tax as reflected in the School District Preliminary Budget.”

The preliminary budget can be found on the district website, wcsdpa.org.

The notice also explains the rationale for the decision. “The School District real estate tax increase for the next fiscal year is limited to the index percentage unless the proposed tax rate is approved by voters pursuant to a referendum or the School District qualifies for an Act 1 referendum exception. As a result of special circumstances covered by an Act 1 referendum exception, a tax rate percentage increase above the index might be required to balance the School District budget for the next fiscal year (the 2014/2015 fiscal year). This tax increase is required to provide a quality education program as reflected in the School District’s Preliminary Budget,” it said.