Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Board Opts for Tax Hike Millage Stands at 6th-Lowest in County

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Board Opts for Tax Hike Millage Stands at 6th-Lowest in County

Article excerpt

A majority of North Allegheny school board members opted to raise taxes rather than cut music classes, increase class sizes and raid the fund balance to an extent that would hurt the district's bond rating.

The school board on June 26 approved a $175.9 million budget that raises taxes by 0.6851 mills.

The new millage is 19.1408, which is the sixth-lowest among the 42 suburban districts in Allegheny County. North Allegheny has the largest enrollment - 8,493 - and the 14th-lowest cost-per-student in the suburbs, according to data released with the budget.

"Our spending per student is about $3,000 below the average for the districts in Allegheny County," board member Kevin Mahler said. "We are not a middle-of-the-road school district, but we spend like one."

The increase will cost the owner of an average home valued at $239,000 approximately $163 per year.

School directors Christopher Finley and Libby Blackburn voted no on the budget.

Mr. Finley, who missed several meetings where the budget was discussed, asked if the millage could be lower. This prompted a lengthy, contentious debate where other board members asked budget opponents for alternatives.

"Explaining why you are voting 'no' is not the same as presenting an alternative budget plan. This budget should not be as politicized as I fear it has become," board member Allyson Minton said.

The budget includes increased debt for the $66 million bond issue to fund the expansion of Franklin Elementary, renovation of McKnight Elementary, adding turf to one field at the intermediate high school and adding restrooms to the baseball/softball field at the senior high school.

Board member Andrew Chomos, chair of the budget committee, said the district's continued growth and safety initiatives, including adding school resource officers to the high schools, also contributed to the budget increase.

"The expansion of Franklin was very necessary. The numbers suggest enrollments that are going to near 9,000 before they dip back down again," he said. …

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