At the May 20, 2013 Regular Meeting, the School Board will act on a final budget for the 2013-2014 school year in the amount of $83,164,503 which includes a reduction in millage rate from 27.13 mills to 22.61—a 4.52 mill decrease.
This budget maintains the excellent programs that the students, parents and community have come to expect of the Mt. Lebanon School District. However, the budget does include cost savings from a modification of the Unified Arts rotation in middle school and some reductions in staff due to retirements and attrition. Changes in program also include the addition of a mathematics coach at the elementary level for one year to support the implementation of the PA Common Core Standards.
There is some increase in revenue projected in the budget from local earned income tax and realty transfer tax due to an improving economy. The high school student parking fee will increase from $50 to $75 and a high school participation fee was approved and will be discussed by the Board at a future meeting.
Operational Cost Savings
A 17% reduction in utility costs is reflected in this budget due to efficiencies in use and reduced commodity rates. There is also some savings in the cost of maintaining District playfields by about half of the prior year cost due to a new field maintenance contract.
Real Estate Taxes and Property Assessments
Act 1 of 2006 limits the amount of additional real estate tax revenue the District may levy in any given year. For 2013-14, Mt Lebanon is permitted to levy a millage rate on the new community assessed values which would raise real estate taxes by an additional 1.7% (Index) over the 2012-13 Budget amount plus exceptions for the additional cost of the retirement rate increase. The additional exceptions beyond the 1.7% Index that were granted by the state provides for almost $900,000 more in collectable real estate tax revenue. The budget presented to the Board does not require all the allowable tax revenue increase to be in balance.
The 2013-14 Budget includes a 4.52 reduction in the millage rate to 22.61 mills. Community-wide, the reduction in millage rate allows for 1.9% more in real estate tax revenue than the prior year. This increase is well below the Act 1 of 2006 index as well as the allowable exceptions to the Index that the District is entitled to use.
Determining the total of all real estate values in Mt. Lebanon is a complicated matter. The reason it is not a simple calculation is that many properties are still under appeal from last year without resolution, or have new appeals this year either through a reopened reassessment process or by an appeal to the courts. While total assessment of community properties increased in Mt. Lebanon as it did in all the school districts in Allegheny County, schools have to consider not only the successful appeals of which each district is aware, but also outstanding appeals that may not be decided for up to three years. The Board considered the historical rate of successful appeals during the 2002 assessment, a review of the outstanding appeals provided by the county assessment office and a discussion of outstanding appeals with our solicitor. Through this process, we established an assessed value of the community that takes into consideration the probable outcome of all these appeals and the impact on a total assessment value. With this information we were able to assess our millage rate at a 20% decrease from 2012-13.
It was important to wait set the millage rate to access the most up–to-date appeals data from the county to make these projections before presenting the Board with the millage rate required for this budget.
Impact on Homes
As a result of the property reassessment of 2013, the change in assessed value of any individual home within the community could differ significantly with each property within the community. While total District real estate tax revenue in the community will only increase 1.9%, the impact on an individual homeowner is not as easily predicted. The rule of thumb is that if any individual property assessment increased less than 20%, that property’s school tax bill will likely be reduced. And if any individual property assessment increased more than 20%, that property’s school tax bill will likely be increased. The larger the change from the prior year’s assessment, the larger the increase or decrease in the tax bill.
Gaming Fund Impact
The District will again receive $1.7 million in gaming funds from the State which will be used to reduce tax bills on eligible owner/occupied homes by a reduction in the assessed value on the tax bill by $8,118 through homestead exclusion. This will reduce those tax bills by almost $184 compared to $185 last year.
School Board Approves Proposed Final Budget
On April 15, 2013 at the Regular Board meeting, the School Board approved a Proposed Final Budget for the 2013-2014 school year in the amount of $83,249,503 at a millage rate of 27.67 (unadjusted for any change in assessed value) an increase of .54 mills (unadjusted for any change in assessed value) over the 2012-2013 school year. The Board will vote on the Final Budget at the May 20, 2013 School Board meeting.
The updated General Fund Budget Summary and proposed budget reduction list are now available and include changes proposed at the April 2, 2013 Special Budget meeting. Discussion of the proposed final budget will continue at the Board Discussion meeting on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jefferson Middle School Library. Action on the proposed budget will be considered by the Board at the Regular Board meeting on April 15, 2013.