Quaker Valley School District will keep tax increase within state cap

Property owners in the Quaker Valley School District should not expect to see any hike in real estate taxes beyond 3.4% for the next school year.

School district officials recently approved a resolution pledging to keep any tax hike within an inflation-based state limit.

Act 1, passed in 2006 to provide property tax relief, sets a tax cap for school districts to cover normal inflationary costs and still pass a balanced budget without exceeding the tax hike cap.

In Quaker Valley’s case, the index for next school year is 3.4%, or 0.6620-mills. The current millage rate is 19.4711 mills.

The median home value in the district is $231,500.

A tax increase up to the index would equate to about $153 more in taxes a year for those property owners.

The district has not raised taxes in at least two years.

Scott Antoline, district director of finance, said he does anticipate having to raise taxes a bit, but it is too early in the financial planning process to tell how much.

“We do anticipate one this year,” Antoline said. “We’ll be working on those details. We’re very early in the process. We haven’t formally voted to approve anything.”

Antoline said a tax hike is necessary this time due to operational increases such as salaries and benefits, as well as charter school and pension obligations and long-term financing for the proposed new high school.

The proposed school is on 150 acres of land off Camp Meeting Road. It straddles Leet Township, Edgeworth and Leetsdale.

No cuts to programs or staffing are expected in the budget.

Jeffrey Watters, school board member and finance committee chair, said officials will continue to review all revenues and expenses to keep any tax hike to a minimum.

“Those of us on the school board take our roles as stewards of the taxpayers’ money very seriously,” Watters said. “It stands to reason that as taxpayers ourselves, none of us wants to see a single dollar spent that doesn’t return a benefit to the QVSD student experience.

“The district is on strong financial footing. We have been very intentional and transparent in the development of a five-year financial and capital plan that provides a roadmap as to where we are headed strategically, operationally and financially.”

Charter school costs and pension obligations have been burdensome on some school districts in recent years.

Gateway and Plum school district officials have cited those rising expenses as reasons for potential tax hikes.

Finance experts with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials have called for charter school tuition reform in recent years.

Watters said Quaker Valley echos those concerns about “unfunded or underfunded public school mandates,” and hopes state legislators hear them.

“A little more budgetary courage from those at the state level would go a long way at the local level,” Watters said.

More district budget talks are expected at the Feb. 8 and March 8 committee meetings.

District officials plan to present a proposed final budget on April 12 and formally adopt next school year’s spending plan on May 18.

The budget’s adoption is a bit early compared to several other school districts in Allegheny County.

State law requires school districts to adopt a budget by the end of June.

The district would have had to submit a preliminary budget within the first two months of the year if it wanted to seek Act 1 exemptions and raise taxes beyond the 3.4%.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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