The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 13, 2013

Westmont holds line on taxes

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — For the second consecutive year, taxpayers in the Westmont Hilltop School District will not see a tax increase.

The school board Monday approved a tentative 2013-14 budget of $20,165,674 by a 7-0 margin. Board members Kamal Gella and Phyllis Forman were absent.

The budget must be available for review by residents for 30 days before it can be adopted. It cannot be increased.

About 90 residents attended the meeting, held at the library of the high school.

Rooney Gleason, chairman of the finance and property committee, said Business Manager Regina Rembold and the remainder of the administration did an excellent job in preparing a budget that holds the line on taxes despite significant increases in pension and health care costs.

Board President Diana Schroeder said the board is pleased with the budget.

“Our administrators, teachers and board have worked very hard to balance the budget without a tax increase for the second year in a row despite continually escalating costs,” she said.

James Greco, founder of a citizens group to combat tax increases while protecting education, said he is glad that the budget retains current taxes.

He said that Rembold did a good job of presenting the budget to the board during meetings but believes that the board should have asked more questions to help shape the budget.

Schroeder countered by saying that balancing a budget is a yearlong process and that the board seeks answers to its questions throughout the year.

The board has had to be creative in drafting the budget, she said.

The board listened to its architect, Hays Large Architects of Altoona, present a report on the condition of its aging middle school and what steps would be needed to make it suitable for decades.

The architect said plenty of work is needed in certain areas such as entranceways, roof, brickwork and tying the brickwork into the frame of the structure.

The architect will present an estimate of the cost to make the repairs at the board’s next meeting on June 10.

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