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Like its neighbors in Bangor, Pen Argyl Area School District tacks another $48 onto tax bill

By Joe McDonald, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 25 2013 11:25:13 PM CDT
PEN ARGYL, Pa. -

Homeowners in the Pen Argyl Area School District will pay about $48 a year more in taxes as part of a $27.1 million budget approved Tuesday night by the board of directors.

The $48 figure, or $12 per quarter, is based on a home assessed at $50,000. That is nearly the same tax increase the neighboring Bangor Area School District approved Monday night when it passed a $50.2 million budget.

The Pen Argyl budget passed, 6-1, with Ethan Habrial casting the sole “no” vote.

Supt. William E. Haberl, in a press release, singled out a “continued trend of a substantial increase in the retirement rate,” and other forces beyond the district’s control, notably the cost for cyber/charter schools.

“In addition, the other culprit for this budget is now for the third year a lack of funding commitment from Harrisburg for public schools, most notably for the state basic education subsidy,” Haberl said.

The district, he said, saw its state funding cut 17 percent in 2011/2012 and the new 2013/2014 budget reflects a “zero increase” in basic education funding, the same as 2012/2013.

The district’s largest revenue source, real estate taxes, are listed at $13.3 million in the budget, which includes a millage increase of .96 mills, or two percent. The district also collects $2.2 million in earned income taxes.

Salaries for everyone from the superintendent, to teachers to custodians represent the largest expenditure in the budget at $11.9 million, a $163,783 increase over last year.

The new budget also increased the maximum income level from $18,000 to $35,000 for homeowners who can apply for a property tax rebate. Business manager Walter Schlegel Jr. said he anticipates the change will generate 150 new applicants and most people will get back about $200. The maximum rebate cannot exceed $650 for a homeowner.

Haberl, in a review of the district’s last 18 budgets, said Pen Argyl’s budgets have been among the lowest in Northampton County. He said Pen Argyl, whose tax mileage rate was increased from 46.40 to 47.26 in the new budget, has the lowest millage rate of the eight school districts in the county.

Over the last three years of funding cuts, Haberl said, the district has not laid off any employees.