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Wyoming County Press Examiner

Around a dozen residents got a glimpse of a $46.8 million draft budget for 2014-15 during Thursday’s budget & finance committee meeting of the Tunkhannock Area School Board.

“This is strictly a numbers game,” committee chair Sandra Lane told the other six board members present. “This is something the state makes us do before we have any real estate numbers or state budget numbers.”

TA business manager P.J. O’Shea gave a Power Point presentation that underscored the discussion was “very preliminary.”

O’Shea explained that the Pennsylvania Department of Education imposes an index on each school district as to how much taxes can be raised, and if the district anticipates a need for greater revenue, it must commit to that concept with PDE by Feb. 19.

And, 10 days before that is a deadline to give the public notice of the board’s intent.

This year’s index for the TA School District is 2.7 percent.

That means the district could raise the current tax millage by 1.89 mills, allowing for $377,000 to be raised if there was a 100 percent collection rate.

The current millage is 70.2, and the draft put before the committee was to keep the 70.2 mills intact.

A tax rate of one mill represents a tax liability of one dollar per $1,000 of assessed real estate value by the county.

Lane said the budget before the members present was a starting place and the decision was whether there would be a need to stay within the PDE index which would be keeping the present millage rate or raising it no more than 2.7 percent.

Board member Kim Teeters said a concern of hers was about the amount of the district’s contribution toward state retirement system (or PSERS).

At a Dec. 11 meeting the board shared that it had “found” $2.8 million following an audit with some of those monies it set aside for future state retirement contributions.

Teeters acknowledged that but also noted that the PSERS rate kept going up.

At the front end of the budget & finance committee meeting, O’Shea shared with the public a Power Point presentation he had made Dec. 11 of where the revenue and saved expenditures to the tune of $2.8 million were in last year’s budget.

Resident John Burke asked how long the board knew it had the money.

Lane said it had been first known from an audit completed in October.

Discussion ensued as to if the board decided to go outside the PDE index, it would need to provide a 10-day window to let the public know of such action.

It was agreed there would be enough time to take action, if the board called a special meeting, since its Feb. 20 meeting was a day after the state imposed deadline.