Penn Cambria hikes real estate tax

CRESSON — Residents of Penn Cambria School District will see a real estate tax increase in the 2018-19 school year.

That is true in both Cambria and Blair counties, but Blair County taxpayers will see a steeper increase.

School board members approved the hike along with granting tentative approval of a final 2018-19 budget at their Tuesday meeting.

District officials took advantage of the full increase allowed by the Act 1 index — a limit set by the state Department of Education, Penn Cambria business administrator Jill Bender said.

In Cambria County, real estate taxes are to increase by 0.51 mills to a total rate of 55.14 mills. That translates to an additional cost of $6 per average residential home, Bender said.

Blair County taxpayers will see an increase of 0.54 mills for a total rate of 6.07 mills. That means an additional cost of about $40 per average residential home for the 2018-19 year, Bender said

Blair County residents make up about 6 percent of the district’s tax base, Bender said.

Tax increases in Penn Cambria are typically levied every other year.

Increases are needed as state subsidies to the district have remained stagnant while expenses have increased, she said.

Payroll and benefits, as well as the district’s pension and cyber charter school obligations, are driving costs, Bender said.

The tax increase will result in an additional $49,000 in 2018-19 revenue.

That amount “doesn’t even cover the increase in pension costs,” Bender said.

The 2018-19 budget also includes a $1.1 million deficit. That amount is up from last year’s shortfall of $922,000.

That deficit will require the district to “dip into” saved money in its fund balance, Bender said.

“They’re going to take a significant hit,” she said.

The district’s fund balance, as of Tuesday, was at $5.6 million.

That means the $1.1 million deficit has the potential to use up about a fifth of those saved funds.

“If we continue on this path, you can see that will be used up very quickly,” she said. “A lot of schools are in this situation.”

So far, the district has been able to forego programming cuts and layoffs, but Superintendent William Marshall said retiring district personnel may not be replaced.

The district operates out of five buildings. Despite the associated overhead costs, the use of those buildings likely will remain unchanged, Marshall said.

“We just don’t have the room to consolidate,” he said.

But if the financial situation persists, district leaders will have to pursue other solutions, Marshall said.

“Everything will be on the table,” he said. “That’s not going to be specific to Penn Cambria. That’s going to be every school district.”

School board members will have to vote on final approval of the budget next month.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.