The Dover Area school board recently approved a budget that includes a 2.3 percent property tax increase, matching the state's cap for the district.
But it took six votes to pass that budget, after the board rejected proposals with higher and lower tax increases and twice deadlocked on the tax hike they finally agreed to include in their final budget proposal.
The $52.6 million budget will raise the property tax rate from 21 mills to 21.483 mills. That means a $48 tax increase for the owner of a $100,000 home and a $72 tax hike for the owner of a $150,000 home.
Julie Ann Emig, Bryan Rehm, Bernadette Reinking, Rob McIlvaine and Charles Rauhouser voted in favor of the plan; Kristen Ventre, Terry Emig and Dan Sindlinger voted no.
When its preliminary budget was floated in February, Dover was facing a $3.9 million shortfall. Based on re-calculations of revenue and a reduction in expenditures based on attrition, the administration reduced the shortfall to $1.78 million.
Of that, $526,322 will be covered by money in the general fund that is earmarked for debt service and another $985,000 by money in the general fund earmarked for payment to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). The remaining $269,287 will be funded using unrestricted money from the general fund.
As of June 30, that fund will have a balance of $12.54 million. At the end of next year, the fund balance will be $10.78 million.
Parents and students in the district have repeatedly criticized the board for its frequent complaints that it's running short of money, even as it sits on a fund balance of more than $12 million.
Steve Cook, treasurer of the band boosters and a candidate for election to the school board this year, has frequently told the board, "You say you're saving for a rainy day. It's raining now."
Cook questioned the board how it could claim there was no money for programs like band but it could find the money to hire an assistant superintendent and another administrator.
Business manager Belinda Wallen said the district needs to keep an amount equal to about 4 percent of expenses in its fund balance to protect its credit rating.
The district is still evaluating how much money can be saved through attrition, by not replacing retiring teachers, and what, if any, reductions in extra-curricular activities might be included in the budget.
-- Reach Lauren McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org.