Board Sets First School Tax Increase in 11 Years

2.24% Rise Costs Average Homeowner $92

Action Subject to Reconsideration if Governor’s Education Budget Proposals Pass

JUN 22 2022, 5pm

SWIFTWATER – At its June meeting, the Pocono Mountain School Board passed a $2.8 million tax increase, the first increase in 11 years.

The tax hike amounts to a 2.24% tax increase, resulting in a total millage of 20.350. That is a 0.445 mill increase over the current year.

For the individual property owner it means they will be paying $4.45 more for each $10,000 of assessed value. A home assessed by the county at $100,000 would see school taxes go up a total of $44.50 annually, while a property with an assessment of $500,000 would pay $22.50 more next year. The average residential assessment in the county is $206,000; that value translates into an annual increase of just under $92.

District expenditures for next year are budgeted at $232,540,000. This includes transfers from the $19,000,000 unrestricted reserve funds of $4,750,642 to the capital improvement reserve fund and $6,575,000 to the general fund to offset budget increases. This is projected to leave the district with $7,767,246 in its unrestricted reserve funds at the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Board member Randy Johnson blamed the budget shortfall on the county assessment and covid. He lambasted the reassessment work done by the county’s contractor, particularly on commercial properties, which he said took $5,000,000 out of the district budget because so many business property owners won a reduction of their taxes on assessment appeals.

He said covid cost the district $6 million in additional payments by the district to charter and cyber schools to which so many PMSD students migrated. “Some have come back, but not as many as we hoped,” he said. He urged legislators to enact meaningful charter/cyber school reform so that “they have to play by the same rules we do.”

Ronnie Byrd echoed the need for charter school reform. He complained that the district was precluded from spending budget money to advertise its in-house cyber school, while the charter/cyber schools are permitted to market their offerings.

“But we can give public money to those cyber schools, and they can do it,” he said. “So I am going to say it right here – Parents, bring your kids back to Pocono Mountain Cyber School, we’re better. Come back. If you want me to I’ll beg.”

The budget, including the tax increase, was adopted 6 to 1, with only member Anna Lopez voting no.

Joseph Colozza, the district’s Chief Financial Officer, said that they could reopen the budget in August or September, after they see the details of the new state budget, which has not been adopted. Governor Wolf has proposed a 20% increase in education spending and reforms on amounts paid to charter schools. If those budget items are accepted, the need for a tax increase could be reduced or eliminated. The district is required to adopt a budget by June 30, so they cannot wait to see what happens in Harrisburg.

The board has canceled its July meeting. The next meeting is at 7pm on August 17, in the Pocono Mountain Administration Building on the Swiftwater Campus.

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