Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Preliminary Harrisburg school district budget proposes 3.4% property tax hike

Harrisburg school district’s Lincoln Administration Building.

For a second straight year, Harrisburg property owners would see their tax bills shoot up under a proposed budget by the city school administration.

The district is proposing a 3.4 percent tax hike that would increase the millage rate from 28.8 mills to 29.78 mills.

The average city homeowner, with a median property value of $42.800, would see the school portion of their property tax bill increase by $41.91, according to budget data. The hike would raise $1.37 million for the district.

Property taxes support about one-quarter of the district’s annual budget, with the remainder originating from a variety of other taxes and fees, as well as state and federal government support.

“I don’t agree with raising taxes to make up for the budget shortfall,” said board member Carrie Fowler, who added that she opposes the proposed budget. “We’ve been taxed enough. We don’t need to be taxed more for this over-bloated administration.”

The $155.5 million proposed budget for the 2019-20 school year is about $5 million more than the current, 2018-19 budget and about $9 million more than the 2017-18 budget.

The greatest increases in expenses originate from faculty pay and retirement contributions. The district, which has 6,540 K-12 students and 936 faculty and staff, also proposes dipping into its reserve (savings), reducing that fund by some $3 million.

Last year, school property taxes rose 3.6 percent, the maximum amount allowable under state law.

Meanwhile, the state continues to withhold $10.9 million from the district after charging that the district was not fully complying with a financial audit. The district since has stated that it has complied with the audit, but the state has not yet reinstated those funds, said Fowler.

The administration plans a series of community meetings to publicly discuss the budget. The next one is slated for May 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Marshall Math Science Academy, 301 Hale Ave.

That meeting, however, is taking place far too late, said Fowler.

She charges that the administration is not in compliance with the state-mandated budget process, as the preliminary budget was supposed to be available for public review by Jan. 31.

“We’re out of compliance,” she said. “I didn’t see a proposed budget until today.”

The deadline to pass a proposed preliminary budget is May 31, with a final budget due to pass by June 30. New tax rates would be reflected on school property tax bills that are mailed in July.

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