Senate passes $740B economic package rooted in Biden domestic vision

Red Lion schools keep tax rate steady

Junior Gonzalez

The Red Lion Area School District has no plans to raise taxes on property owners as part of its annual budget, continuing a tradition it has followed for the past six years.

The proposed 2017-2018 budget has estimated total expenses at $89.8 million, an increase of 1.5 percent over the 2016-2017 operating budget of $88.5 million. Revenues from local, state and federal resources amount to $86.6 million for the proposed budget.

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“Red Lion is in a very good spot as compared to many school districts around the county,” said Red Lion Chief Financial Officer Tonja Wheeler.

The budget was made with an expectation that state funding for regular and special education programs will remain the the same. The district also budgeted for a slight decrease in federal revenue.

"We have a healthy savings that we could rely on when we need it, but it all depends on the state and what kind of mandates they continue," Wheeler said. "If they continue to fairly fund, we'll be fine."

With no tax increase, the millage rate for 2017-2018 will remain at 22.2791 mills. In 2016-2017, taxes actually decreased because of a debt service that was repaid by the district.

“We’ve been very cost-focused on reducing extras, and we’re really looking out for our taxpayers because they provide the majority of our revenue,” Wheeler said.

The school district is allowed to raise taxes by as much as 3.3 percent, or 0.7352 mills, according to the tax increase limit set by the Department of Education.

“Our ultimate goal is to never raise taxes,” Wheeler said.

With one board member absent, the eight present voting members at Thursday’s meeting unanimously approved the proposed operating budget.

In her presentation to the board, Wheeler said health insurance costs dropped because of benefits in the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s provided guidance. It allowed us to, when negotiating contracts, it allowed us to plan for the future in making our policies affordable,” she said. With the threat of the health care law going away, Wheeler said, "we've got it in our contract now."

“It’s always a bargainable item, so you never know," she said. "That’s government."

Toward the end of her presentation, Wheeler complimented taxpayers on their goodwill toward the district.

“We are truly a sleeper community,” she said, “We have average Joes going to work every day, making this community robust.”

The Red Lion School Board will vote May 4 to approve final budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.