Estimated state funding cuts could prove taxing to property owners in the Wayne Highlands School District.


Estimated state funding cuts could prove taxing to property owners in the Wayne Highlands School District.
“What we’re hearing from the state is there will be cuts in funding for public education. So in our preliminary budget, we have anticipated a substantial cut,” said Superintendent Tom Jenkins. “We’re estimating over $600,000 in a cut for state funding for Wayne Highlands.”
Wayne Highlands School District’s 2011-12 proposed preliminary budget is $44,362,218 — a $1.8 million increase over last year’s budget — and includes a 14.137 property tax millage rate or a 4.18 percent increase.
“That’s the maximum it could be; we’re hoping it will be less,” Jenkins said. 
Using the proposed millage rate, a property owner with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay $1,413.70 in property tax or a tax increase of $56.70 for 2011-12.
The current property tax millage rate (for 2010-11) is 13.57 mills.
Three motions made by the board at Tuesday night’s school board meeting allow the district to: apply for Act 1 exceptions to the Deptartment of Education, print the preliminary budget and make it availalbe for public inspection, and adopt the preliminary budget at the Feb. 15 board meeting.
Act 1 of 2006 , the Taypayer Relief Act, established  a tax increase index for all school districts in Pa. based on inflation, Jenkins explained. “Act 1 also established the fact that money from slot machines also comes to school districts. And school districts use it to reduce property taxes for homesteads and farmstead property.” 
For the 2011-12 school year, the tax index is 1.4 percent.
“Act 1 provides, if there are certain school district costs that have increased by more than that index, school districts can apply to the Dept. of Education for exceptions in those categories. If those exceptions are approved by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, the school board, when they do their final budget in June, can consider enacting a tax increase higher than the index,” he said.
“Act 1 provides that if you’re going to apply for exceptions, the board must adopt a preliminary budget, no later than Feb. 16,” he added.
The tentative budget would still be adopted in May and the final in June.
“Usually, the governor has to give his budget presentation by the first week of February. Since Gov. Corbett is newly elected, he has until the first week in March. We don’t know what the governor will propose for state funding for public education. And that’s still subject to approval by the House and the Senate,” Jenkins said.
The state must notify the district by May 24th whether or not they qualify for Act 1 exceptions. “And then, as we get more information about state funding and all the things...we’ll be able to put together a tentative budget in May that may or may not require a tax increase,” the superintendent said.
“The business manager and I will continue to work on the budget between now and May. And be able to present better details to the board in May,” he added.
The premlinary budget is available for review at the district office, the Damascus Area School, and the Preston Area School during regular business hours.