Tax issues take center stage for school board

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot

Tax issues of various kinds were considered by the Greencastle-Antrim School Board at its regular meeting Feb. 7 and in the end the per capita tax was eliminated, the local tax collectors got a raise and a preliminary 2013-14 budget with a $675,000 million deficit was put on the table with much discussion to follow over the next few months.

In a 6-2 vote the board voted to repeal the $10 per capita tax levied on each adult in the school district, effective July 1. The issue arose last month based on the efficiency of the collection of the tax. Jolinda Wilson, district business manager, reported that the cost of collection equals 28 percent of the revenue it generates. Officials said that typically hundreds of the per capita tax bills go uncollected.

“I think the tax made a lot of sense when it was enacted,” said Eric Holtzman, board member. “The value of $10 has eroded.

“It made sense 40 years ago. We’ve not been allowed to keep up with inflation.”

Holtzman, Mike Shindle, William Thorne, Melinda Cordell, Ken Haines and Brian Hissong voted to eliminate the tax. Joel Fridgen and Mike Still opposed. Prior to the vote and discussion Fridgen made a motion to table the issue. While Still seconded the motion, it failed on a 6-2 vote that followed the lines of the action to repeal.

“I see no reasons to make this decision now,” said Fridgen.

“I have not talked to a citizen in favor of getting rid of this tax. This is one tax that everyone in the community can participate in in support of education.”

Wilson noted that the revenue lost by dropping the per capita tax is $134,000, which equals a half mill of real estate taxes in the district. The board will not be setting a tax rate for the next school year until it adopts a final budget, likely in June. Wilson said that a half mill is equivalent to $11.49 for the average property taxpayer.

Pay for tax collectors

Acting on a request by the local tax collectors, the board voted 7-1 with Still opposing to set the rate at $2.00 per tax bill. Tax collectors for the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township now receive $1.40 per tax bill. The rate had increased by just a nickel in the past 13 years. Collectors had requested a hike to $3 per tax bill. The rate is effective from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2017.

In contrast to the per capita tax collection efficiency noted in the earlier discussion, officials noted that the collection rate for real estate taxes is around 98 percent.

Holtzman said, “They do a great service for us. I’ve never heard of a problem. It sounds like an efficient system.”

The tax collectors had not requested a rate increase for collecting per capita, which will become moot for the coming fiscal year since the levy was eliminated.

Preliminary budget

The board approved a preliminary budget for 2013-14 that shows expenditures of $35,249,115 and revenues of $34,573,795. That tentative spending plan is based on a real estate tax increase of 3.8 mills which is the maximum the state would allow. Approval of the preliminary budget does not lock the board into the property tax hike. The tentative budget shows a deficit of $675,000. Without the mill rate increase the deficit left is $1.4 million. To the average property taxpayer a 3.8 mill increase would equal $87.92.

Personnel issues

The board accepted the resignation for retirement at the end of the current school year of three employees who represented 95 years of teaching experience, all at Greencastle-Antrim: Kimberly J. Morrow, 35 years as a middle school mathematics teacher; Darlene M. Signore, 25 years as an elementary teacher; Kevin E. Traynor, 35 years as a middle school geo-environmental teacher.

A teacher transfer was approved. Erica D. Hager, middle school mathematics teacher, moved to the high school as a math teacher on Jan. 22 to cover for Shai David. Bradley W. Fitz was hired as a long-term substitute for the middle school math position.

The following professional staff received salary adjustments for completing additional courses for either a degree change or achievement of a different credit hour level: Megan L. Barkdoll, Jennifer M. Faith, Susan E. Hirneisen, So H. Marvich, Marci L. Stover and James R. Thomas.

In other personnel issues, the board approved two guidelines which match new health care regulations. One  requires district support staff employees hired on or after July 1, 2013, to work for a minimum of six hours per day in order to qualify for medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits. The other requires all support staff employees hired on or after July 1, 2013, to successfully complete a 90 day probationary period to be eligible for medical, dental and vision insurance benefits. Officials said the new guidelines would not affect existing employees.

Other business

The following athletic assignments were approved: Sean M. Coleman, high school track and field assistant coach; Robert V. DeGrange, high school track and field assistant coach; Corry L. Eagler, middle school girls’ volleyball head coach’ Michael A. Ensminger, high school boys’ varsity baseball assistant coach; Linda M. Harbaugh, middle school track and field assistant coach; Edward L. Kaiser, high school girls’ junior varsity softball assistant coach; Franklin T. Klink III, high school track and field assistant coach; Todd A. Nicarry, high school junior varsity baseball head coach; Richard T. Secrest, high school track and field assistant coach; Troy D. Werdebaugh, middle school track and field head coach.

In other business, the board approved:

— The 2013-14 general operating budget of the Lincoln Intermediate Unit at an increase of 1.7 percent, up $12,895 over the 2012-13 budget. The G-A contribution is up by $486.26.

— A spring trip for the high school concert band to Six Flags Great Adventures Theme Park in Jackson, N. J. for a band adjudication May 10 to 12. There is no cost to the school district for the trip.