Lackawanna voters will be asked to approve a $47.5 million budget for the Lackawanna School District that doesn’t increase their property taxes for the 2013-14 school year.
The district’s Board of Education on Monday adopted a proposed budget that amounts to a 4.9 percent increase over the current spending plan of $45.3 million.
But a $1.6 million increase in state financial aid, as well as dipping into the district’s surplus fund, enabled budget crafters to avoid a tax hike.
“What other district around here is coming across with a zero percent [tax increase]?” commented Board of Education member Kenneth Motyka. “I hope it passes.”
The proposed budget includes a property tax levy of $8.59 million, an estimated homestead tax rate of $12.43 per $1,000 of assessed value and a nonhomestead tax rate of $32.02 per $1,000.
Board members were debating whether to adopt a budget with a zero percent tax increase that would take up to $370,000 from the district’s surplus account or a budget with a 2 percent tax increase that would not dip into the surplus.
In a vote of 4 to 2, they chose the former scenario, which will leave the surplus at about $5.1 million.
The proposed budget would shave nine teaching positions, which would be eliminated this summer either through attrition or layoffs, said Ronald Miller, board president.
“We’re not really downsizing; we’re rightsizing,” said Miller.
“Nobody here likes doing it. It’s a necessity in today’s economy. We just saw that we were way overstaffed in some areas.”
Despite those cuts, the budget includes the addition of more Advanced Placement courses and would not eliminate any programs, he added.
A change in the homestead and nonhomestead tax rates, adopted last year by the Lackawanna City Council in an effort to spur commercial growth in the city, shifted more of the overall tax burden to homeowners.
Some board members said the change has been difficult for many homeowners.
Board member Mark Kowalski, who voted against the zero percent plan, said he favored the 2 percent tax hike as a way to guard against potential revenue losses next year due to growing charter school enrollment or decreases in state aid.
“I know the zero percent looks great now, but I was looking for the future,” he said. “Everybody would like to see zero, but sometimes 2 percent isn’t bad.”
The district will send details of the proposed spending plan to city residents by next Monday, and a public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 7 in the auditorium of Martin Road Elementary School, 135 Martin Road.
City residents will vote on the budget May 21.