Pensions listed as top reason for school tax increases

Jul 17, 2015 by


In the Hempfield Area School District, the property tax rate for the 2015-16 school year was raised by 1.79 mills, with each mill generating $625,000.

Business manager Wayne Wismar said the district needed to raise taxes for the $89.4 million budget for three reasons: contractual salary increases, higher health care costs, and state-mandated pension obligations to the Public School Employees Retirement System.

The last reason is the biggest culprit, as the district will pay $1.7 million more in pension costs than it did during  2014-15.

In a recent survey of 69 percent of school districts statewide by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, a large majority reported sizable burdens in, first, increased mandated pensions, followed by health benefits, special education and charter schools.

East Xtra contacted some of the larger school districts in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to find the highest tax increases for the 2015-16 school year, and the reasons for them.

One clear finding was that Hempfield Area is not alone in facing soaring pension obligations.

Taxpayers in the Greater Latrobe School District face a 1-mill increase, which business manager Dan Watson attributed to rising PSERS contributions.

The district will pay $1.16 million more in 2015-16, for which the state will reimburse about half.

In addition to a tax increase, the district will tap into its savings and cut personnel to balance its $53.4 million budget.

“PSERS is an issue for our district and every district in Pennsylvania. Ten years ago, we paid 4.69 percent; this year it is 25.84 percent,” he said.

Source: Pensions listed as top reason for school tax increases | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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