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June 18, 2014

Windber Area tax hike lower than anticipated

WINDBER — Windber Area Schools will raise taxes for 2014-2015, but not up to the nearly 1-mill level the state permitted earlier this year.

The district’s board, by a 7-1 vote, approved a $17.2 million spending plan Tuesday that hikes taxes by 0.4 mills.

In a district whose millage still ranks among the lowest in the region despite several tax increases over the past five years, next year’s increase will add just $11 to a yearly tax bill for a taxpayer with property assessed at $24,000, Superintendent Rick Huffman said.

The final budget was more than $150,000 less than the tentative plan approved last month thanks to a few last-minute spending plan cuts, Huffman said.

By doing that, the district was able to reduce what was initially expected to be a $1.5 mil­­lion shortfall. It’s now closer to $1.3 million, and the district will make up that difference through reserve funds.

Board member Joe Felix said he voted against the plan because the district was again relying heavily on its dwindling reserve account to balance the budget.

The board received approval to raise millage to nearly 1 mill through special exceptions, such as rising pension costs. But over the past few months, many district officials said they were leery of the idea of a increasing taxes above the allocated index.

In other news:

The district also approved a deal with Windber Borough that will keep a school resource officer on Windber’s campus for the 2014-2015 school year. The district will reimburse the borough for costs associated with the officer’s coverage.

David Hurst covers Windber for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.

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