— School taxes in the Wayne Highlands District are going up once again.
The Wayne Highlands School Board voted Friday to increase taxes by 1.7 percent for next year.
The board had to cast a vote to pass a final budget before June 30 under Pennsylvania state law.
It was also learned last Friday that contract negotiations with the Wayne Highlands Education Association (WHEA) are not continuing. The contract expired Sunday.
"We're not a point where we have something to present," said Superintendent Greg Frigoletto about the status of negotiations.
How the negotiations will impact the budget remains in question although in the presentation made Friday, Frigoletto did outline the major costs officials say are driving up the budget.
The biggest increase is in the district's obligation for the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System. The district will have to pay an additional $958,392 into the system next fiscal year.
Health insurance for the employees will increase by $509,147, according to Frigoletto. However, that could change if the health insurance plan changes as a result of the contract negotiations. Currently, the district pays all health, vision and dental insurance premiums for employees.
An additional $215,011 is being added for new positions and there is projected to be $85,500 in lost revenue because of the federal budget cuts.
The increases compared to the anticipated revenue project a deficit of $442,135, which is why the board voted unanimously to increase the tax rate.
The total budget approved was $46,384,522, an increase of $1,050,132 over the last budget. That totals 2.32 percent but the property tax increase will be 1.7 percent.
A homestead property with an assessed valuation of $100,000 will pay around $2.08 more per month, or $25 per year.
The board also passed occupational taxes and per-capita taxes.
Frigoletto pointed out "how minimal" the tax increases "have been over time" by the board.
However, he also said everyone understands "an increase is an increase."
He also said the 1.7 percent increase is the "lowest increase in some time."
Board president Tom Fasshauer said he would prefer "to do no tax increase" but "the challenges" faced by the district mean it is necessary.
He called raising taxes 1.7 percent "the prudent and responsible thing to do."
In another matter, Frigoletto said administration officials are no going to act on bids received to do the storage area project at the high school.
"We're not happy with the way the bids came in," said Frigoletto.
He said all of the bids for the proposed unheated, block structure were $100,000 or more.
Only three bids were received for the project and he said they are going to put it "on hold" and reassess the process.