For the second straight year, Baldwin-Whitehall School District officials have gotten word from the Pennsylvania Department of Education that they cannot raise their district's millage rate, without voter approval, by more than 2.2 percent.
But unlike this past year, the board's members voted, 8-1, at their meeting on Wednesday night to not apply for referendum exceptions that would have allowed them to raise the district millage rate, without voter approval, by more than that percentage.
In other words, although the B-W School Board is far from setting its final millage rate for next year—it will have to do so before the end of June—the rate will not rise more than 2.2 percent above the district's current rate of 23.40 mills.
In fact, given that the average property value in Baldwin-Whitehall will most likely increase in 2013 even after Allegheny County officials finish making decisions on all property value appeals stemming from a reassessments process, the district's millage rate could decrease in order to stay revenue-neutral and prevent a "windfall" of increased tax revenue.
To that end, District Business Manager Mark R. Cherpak informed the school board on Wednesday that, as of Jan. 4, property values in Baldwin-Whitehall are up 25 percent from 2012.
Board member Martin Michael Schmotzer, hoping that the board would instead agree to not raise the district's millage rate no matter what, cast the lone "no" vote.
"Baldwin-Whitehall is the only school district in the last five years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that has not raised millage or taxes," Schmotzer said, "and I wanna continue that. We lowered taxes three years in a row and were neutral the last two years.
"Based on a 25-percent raise in assessments by the county, our millage of 23.4 should be reduced by approximately 5.85 mills. The unknown quantity in this equation is that the county executive (Rich Fitzgerald), in an unprecedented move, has allowed appeals to be heard until March 31 for this current tax year, which is going to further hinder the making of a budget.
"But I'm looking for at least a 5-millage reduction."
District solicitor Ed Lawrence then advised board members that, whether they accept the state's 2.2-percent allowance or not, they could still elect to lower the district's millage rate with their final vote at the end of June.
"It (Wednesday's resolution) does not set things in figures or set the millage," Lawrence said. "It only says that you will not increase the millage above the rate allowed (2.2 percent).
"We're still working with a relatively blank slate."
Board member George L. Pry motioned to accept the maximum 2.2-percent allowance for now. Larry Pantuso seconded.
The district's current rate of 23.40 equates to $2,340 per year for anyone with a property valued at $100,000 (land and building value combined). (Click here to calculate your individual taxes based on that millage.)
Read through other Baldwin-Whitehall School Board items here.
And check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Thursday for more news from Wednesday night's school board meeting.
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