HONESDALE—At a special meeting held on May 17, the Wayne Highlands School District (WHSD) Board of Directors passed a preliminary budget for the 2019-2020 school year, showing a revenue/expenditure increase of 2.74 percent and a real estate tax increase of 3.375 percent.

WHSD Superintendent Gregory Frigoletto explained in a later interview the proposed increases are mostly necessitated by increased costs in the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), notably those dealing with health insurance, salaries and benefits.

The district's proposed revenue and expenses balanced out at $58,359,398, drawing $238,034 from the fund balance to reach parity.

Meeting the proposed revenue necessities, WHSD proposed a preliminary real estate tax rate of 18.104 mills.

A mill is $1 paid on every $1,000 worth of assessed property value, meaning a home valued at $100,000 would pay $1,810.40 in taxes to WHSD.

“The average homeowner...is looking at a $79 increase in costs per year,” explained Frigoletto.

This translates to an increase of $1.52 per week over the 2018-2019 school year, he added.

Real estate tax paid in full between August 1 and September 30, 2019 will receive a two percent discount.

Taxes paid in full from October 1 through November 30 must be paid at face value.

A ten percent penalty will be imposed on taxes paid between December 1 and December 31, 2019.

In addition to the real estate millage, the district approved collection of an occupation tax, two per capita taxes, and a realty transfer tax.

These are all taxes which have been in place for years and remain unchanged from the 2018-2019 school year, said Frigoletto.

Totaling 300 mills on every dollar of occupation assessment, the occupation tax will be collected from all persons in the district 18 or older.

According to the minutes from the special meeting “Occupation assessment shall mean the valuation made by the chief assessor for the county and used for county purposes.”

This is expected to generate $428,678 in revenue.

The per capita taxes will both be $5 collected from all district residents 18 years of age or older.

Each $5 per capita tax is expected to generate $57,404.

The realty transfer tax was set for 0.5 percent and is expected to generate $380,000 each year.

Frigoletto noted residents may be eligible for various exemptions and property tax relief programs to help defray tax costs.

These include things like homestead or farmstead exclusions through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) (dced.pa.gov), the Clean & Green preferential tax assessment program through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) (www.agriculture.pa.gov), and property tax/rent rebate program for senior citizens through the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (www.revenue.pa.gov).

The proposed budget is available for public review at the WHSD District Office (474 Grove Street, Honesdale) during normal business hours until its final passage next month.

The proposed budget is also available for review from the district website: www.whsdk12.com.

The Board is expected to pass the finalized budget at the June business meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 18, at 7:00 p.m. in the District Office.