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June 18, 2014

Penn Cambria hikes taxes in Cambria County

CRESSON — Penn Cambria School District adopted its $23.4 million budget for the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday evening, which includes a millage increase for Cambria County residents and a decrease for Blair County residents.

Those on the Blair County side will see a tax rate relief of 3.99 mills. Part of the 1.75 mill hike in Cambria County will go toward appeasing rising contributions to employee health benefits and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, or PSERS, said Superintendent Mary Beth Whited.

“We had been putting money into a PSERS set-aside for the past several years, planning for the dates when these high percents of PSERS rates were going to come into play,” she told The Tribune-Democrat via phone on Wednesday.

Next year, millage rates for Cambria and Blair counties will be 52.82 and 73.81 respectively.

The district is meeting a portion of their cost demands by pulling $529,000 from that fund, she said. The rest should be made up by the tax increase.

“So, we don’t have to place that much of a burden on taxpayers all at once,” she said. “That’s evidence of good planning on behalf of the board.”

Districts across Pennsylvania continue to make do with less and less state funding. The overcommitment of the state’s school construction reimbursement program, or PlanCon, and consequent moratorium on the program caused the district to delay a proposed school consolidation, an expansion of the elementary building and the closure of two older buildings.

Although Corbett’s education budget has risen markedly in recent years, Whited said, it’s still anemic compared to 2009.

“We’ve essentially had a pay freeze for the last six years in terms of our funding,” she said. “This year’s (increase) will only get us back to where we were in 2009.

“It’s not the ‘historic changes’ people are talking about.”

Justin Dennis covers Penn Cambria schools for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.

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