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Tax Increase in School Board Budget May Decrease After Bond Sale

by on February 10, 2015 11:10 AM

The State College Area School Board has approved a preliminary budget with a sizeable tax increase, but the numbers aren’t set in stone just yet.

According to a State College Area School District news release, the board unanimously approved its preliminary 2015-2016 budget and a 6.09 percent tax increase. This increase works out to roughly an additional $172 for a homeowner with property valued at $71,686.

A portion of the increase – 1.9 percent – will fund the district’s day-to-day operations. The remaining 4.2 percent of the increase is planned to begin paying off the debt associated with the high school renovation project, which was approved by the voters in May.

However, the interest rates for the high school project debt will likely be lower than the figures used to calculate the 4.2 percent tax increase, as the market has improved since this preliminary increase was first calculated. According to the release, the district will undergo a bond sale later this month, which will allow the district to determine a more definitive and possibly smaller tax increase.

The preliminary budget includes $136.4 million in revenue, and $137.5 in expenses. According to the release, the budget may change some depending on the contents of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal, which will be released in March. The board will vote to approve the final budget in June.

The board also learned about some of the district’s strengths and weaknesses identified in the 2014 strategic plan survey.

The news release says that SCASD assistant superintendent Jason Perrin presented the results of the survey, which was taken by students, teachers and parents. The results shows that many in the State College community feel that the school district provides a safe and welcoming atmosphere, students are treated positively by teachers and the district provides a wide range of learning experiences.

“These baseline results strongly suggest that SCASD is a high-functioning district that meets the needs of the majority of students and parents as well as providing a good place to work for teachers,” the survey concludes.

However, the survey also identified bullying, student participation in decision-making and inconsistent teaching practices as challenges that need to be addressed, according to the release.

School district superintendent Bob O’Donnell said many of the survey results are cause for pride, but added that “honest conversation is going to help up us be better.”

The board also approved a research project proposed by Penn State professor Kathryn Drager. The health and human development professor will work with district students to evaluate a computer system designed to help students with “severe disabilities” communicate with others.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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