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Burrell School District Now Considering 5.8% Increase for Property Owners

The Burrell School District is now considering a 5.8 percent tax increase in its proposed budget for the upcoming school year.

The district released a budget proposal that includes a $6.5 million increase, which would account for future bond payments for capital improvements and construction, Finance Director Jennifer Callahan said.

Callahan wrote a budget in March that included a 4 percent tax increase, or $4.5 million, to offset operating costs.

Two million in taxes, in addition to the $4.5 million, is for future bond payments for capital improvements or construction, she said.

When asked what those plans were, Callahan responded, “The board has not made any official decisions regarding the details at this time. »

The proposal would increase the district’s millage rate from 111 mills to 117.5 mills.

With a 6.5 million increase, the owner of a home with a median value of $23,000 would pay about $2,700, Callahan said. A longtime Burrell homeowner who qualifies for a Homestead Act reduction would pay $2,445 ($258 less).

That equates to an increase of $150 per year without the Homestead Exemption and $106 per year with it.

The total proposed budget spending is $36.5 million, Callahan said. Changes made since the proposed budget include a decrease in spending of $68,500 and an increase in revenue of $29,600, resulting in a deficit of approximately $172,000.

Burrell administrators are studying ways to close the deficit before adopting the final budget in June, Superintendent Shannon Wagner said.

Renovations

The district is considering two $10 million bonds to pay for renovation options at Bon Air Elementary School, Huston Middle School and Burrell High School.

If the district were to close Stewart Elementary School, it would move fourth grade classes to Bon Air, build an additional cafeteria there and have the middle school accommodate fifth through eighth grade classes. Construction would include paving and HVAC upgrades at Bon Air, the middle school and the high school. This work is estimated at $20 million.

The other option, estimated at $26 million, would be to move kindergarten through fifth grade to Bon Air, expand the cafeteria and build seven additional classrooms there. Construction would also include paving and air conditioning at Bon Air, the high school and the middle school.

Renovations to the district’s other buildings are necessary, district officials say.

It would cost at least $17 million to renovate the 93-year-old Stewart Building.

The district would realize about $200,000 in savings each year if it closed Stewart, Wagner said. The tax value of a mill in Burrell is $154,000.

“It’s a little more than a tax mill that will help us and help our community,” Wagner said.

If closed, the building would be sold by the school district.

“Our intention is to sell the property in hopes that it will generate tax revenue for the district,” she said.

The district is seeking state grants that would help fund HVAC work at the high school. If it gets the grant, it will pay for $5 million in work, and the district will have to provide about $3 million.

What contributes to the increase

A $4.5 million tax increase is needed to offset district operations, Callahan said.

“There hasn’t been a natural growth in real estate,” Callahan said. “The district’s assessed value is essentially the same as the previous year, resulting in no increase in revenue without increasing the millage rate. The overall assessed value of taxable properties in the district is about the same level as in 2015-2016.

Federal revenues were down nearly $900,000, Callahan said. Alle-Kiski Valley school districts report similar declines; they are allocated at the end of certain school funding linked to the covid-19 pandemic.

Costs for special education services and placement fees, as well as cyber school tuition, increased by more than $265,000, Callahan said.

“In recent years, the number of students needing placement has tripled to 18, and the number of contracted educational assistants and paraprofessionals needed to support our students has increased from 19 to 26,” Callahan said.

Burrell’s contribution to the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center increased by nearly $83,600.

Employee health insurance costs increased 12% due to increased cost of services and increased amount of services.

Callahan said the final budget calling for a 5.8% tax increase is “likely, but not yet officially decided.”

“There could be changes in the budget between now and then,” she said.

The final budget and tax increase are expected to be approved on June 18.

Kellen Stepler is a TribLive reporter covering the Allegheny Valley and Burrell school districts and surrounding areas. He joined the Trib in April 2023. He can be reached at [email protected].