Property taxes likely to rise in Cocalico School District

By on April 8, 2015

Cocalico School District officials are considering a $56.9 million budget that would increase property taxes by 2.4 percent for the 2015-2016 school year.

The tax hike would equate to an extra $73.46 annually for the owner of home at the district’s 2014 median assessed value of $138,600.

The proposed spending plan adds new teachers for the first time in several years, pays for the first major textbook overhaul in almost a decade, and ushers in new technology for all of the district schools and some of its administrative departments.

Business Manager Sherri Stull presented the draft to the school board during a public workshop session Monday night. As it stands, the budget represents a 5.09 percent spending increase and a 2.02 percent increase in revenues.

Much of the district’s increased costs are tied to state-mandated retirement contributions, which will jump from the current 21.4 percent rate to 25.84 percent, an increase of $1.14 million in one year.

Even if the district increases property taxes to the highest level allowed, it can only depend on an additional $750,000 in local revenues. That means the budgeting process began with the district facing a $392,000 deficit.

“People don’t understand,” said Superintendent Bruce Sensenig. “This is the driving force. Everything else, we’ve been able to manage well.”

Stull and Sensenig said Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget does hold some promise for the district, including increased special education funding, an increase in the basic education subsidy, and a more equitable rate for online charter school tuition.

Sensenig said after holding the line on staffing through attrition and job combining, a larger state budget contribution could make 2015-2016 the ideal year to add two new teachers to address class size at two elementary schools. He has also proposed adding a new science teacher, but said that position might not be necessary.

During the 90-minute presentation, Sensenig identified several new or expanding programs provided for next year. Among them:

* $47,000 to provide five years of GPS tracking for the district’s contracted buses; the bus company would pay an additional $47,000.

* An estimated $79,000 increase in payments to the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, where more Cocalico students are enrolling.

* $205,000 for student laptops.

* Contracted salaries would increase by $447,591 next school year, a jump of 2.92 percent. Health insurance would see what Stull described as a “minimal” increase of $91,652.

Sensenig also cautioned that the governor’s spending plan is far from final, and the board could ultimately decide to limit or do away with the local property tax increase. Stull presented the members with options to increase taxes by 1.9 percent — for an average impact of $58.21 annually — or not at all.

Though the district is in good financial health, its expenses and revenues have been inching closer each year. This year, Cocalico officials project a fund balance of $4.3 million, money that can be rolled over to fund next year’s priorities. But Stull said the balance is expected to be just over $1 million at the end of the 2015-2016 cycle.

Board member Michael Messner questioned how small changes in weather might impact the district’s bottom line, questioning whether higher fuel expenses could make a difference in years with tighter budgets.

The board took no action on the budget. Members are expected to take their first vote at a public meeting on May 11. The public will then have several weeks to comment. Final approval and submission to the state is expected June 15.

2 Comments

  1. Brian B Calderone

    April 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

    2010-12 Every public school board in America was offered 50+% discounts on alternative energy project costs from the U. S. dept of energy’s initiative but fewer than .001% opted to trade save the millions in fossil fuel expenses because, they don’t give a crap about the taxpayers.

  2. Brian B Calderone

    April 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    More than 90% of students have internet accessible “Smart” cellphones that are more capable than most laptops. … But, who cares as long as the school board continues holding gun to property owners’ heads, they can continue threatening home and business property owners with bankruptcy and homelessness.
    …….
    Superintendent Sensenig, business manager Stull, and the school board know that outsourcing the bus transportation to a private company and even the building maintenance can save millions per year but, as long as they can threaten home owners with foreclosure, they won’t bother to inconvenience themselves.
    ………..
    Sensenig, Stull, and the board know, they can negotiate the next employee union contracts to mandate more employee contribution to help offset the taxpayer burden but, why do they not?
    ………..
    2010-12 Every public school board in America was offered 50+% discounts on alternative energy project costs from the U. S. dept of energy’s initiative but fewer than .001% opted to trade save the millions in fossil fuel expenses because, they don’t give a crap about the taxpayers.

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