Taxes up, staff down at LM

By Sarah DeSantis, The News-Item

MANDATA — Despite eliminating two teaching positions and raising taxes by 2.53 mills, Line Mountain School District faces a more than $400,000 deficit for the 2017-18 school year.
The board approved a $19,462,037 budget that would raise the average tax bill by $36 on a 6-1 vote Tuesday, May 23.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Director Marlin Yeager Jr., who said he has heard many residents say taxes are too high in the district.
Superintendent David M. Campbell advocated for the tax increase, saying he felt the district had no other choice. Even after cutting a kindergarten teacher and an elementary reading specialist, the district faced a $586,301 deficit. Both positions were eliminated through retirements, he said.
The tax increase is expected to bring in an additional $182,307 in revenue, but Campbell and board President Troy Laudenslager both said they foresee additional tax hikes in coming years.
Campbell said by giving teachers a signing bonus in their contract rather than raises this year, they lessened increases in salaries and contributions to the Pennsylvania State Employee’ Retirement System (PSERS). The district also cut expenditures by about $181,000 by moving most teachers into high deductible insurance plans. But these savings are one time and Campbell said without the 2.53 mill tax increase this year, he had expected a budget deficit by more than $1 million next year.
Health insurance alone will increase by about $280,000 to $300,000, Campbell predicted.
After voicing concern that the $1.5 million the district receives in federal funding for transportation may be eliminated, Director Lawrence Neidig made the motion for the maximum tax increase.
“If they cut that, the whole fund balance goes,” he said, referring to the district’s $1,162,960 unassigned fund balance. The district has an additional $1,380,000 banked that is committed to offset coming PSERS increases.
The motion was seconded by Director Dennis Erdman. Director Michael Bordner was absent from the meeting and one seat on the board is open.

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