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Dover Area residents might be seeing their school property taxes rise, if ever so slightly, for the first time in three years.

In an early budget presentation by district business manager Jennifer Benko on Thursday, March 22, estimated financials show a $2.4 million budget gap for the 2018-19 fiscal year, though nearly all of it is tentatively proposed to be covered by money saved up by the district.

During the presentation, several administrators updated the board on goals including reducing class size, staffing changes and other budgetary considerations related to the upcoming groundbreaking for a $65 million building project at the high school and intermediate school set to begin in July.

Tax increase?: Even with district savings footing the bill for the anticipated budget gap, district residents are in for a tax increase.

Residents will see a property tax hike of 1.23 percent, to 22.204 mills, for an increase of about $32 on the average home in the district.

This would represent the district’s first increase since the 2015-16 school year.

According to the presentation, the mills are “being put in place to phase in millage to assist in funding future capital projects,” such as the high school and intermediate school building project approved by the school board last month.

The project includes a new 290,000-square-foot high school that will be built on the grounds of the current Dover Intermediate School, along with extensive renovations at the current high school building that will serve as the new home for intermediate students in 2020.

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Both projects are scheduled to go out to bid next month.

When reached by phone, Benko stressed the budget is not final and is likely to change over the coming month because of updated revenues and possible clarity on the yet-to-be-passed state budget.

Initiatives: District objectives in the budget include six new elementary-grade teachers and the replacement of several administrative positions.

The proposed administrative changes include the dean of students position at Dover Area High School, which will be eliminated in favor of an additional assistant principal at the school.

The district’s elementary music program will try to accomplish more with less, as it plans to go from four music teachers — one for each elementary school — to two teachers for general music and choral instruction.

One other music teacher will cycle through each elementary school, dedicated to instrumental instruction, according to the presentation.

Leib Elementary School Principal Troy Wiestling said the restructuring allows for “consistency” in music instruction across schools, which, he added, will show in districtwide music events where students from different schools perform together.

In addition, the district plans to buy new, full-size iPads for students to replace iPad minis currently in use.

District Superintendent Tracy Krum said the larger iPads are more useful for class assignments and the mini iPads can be resold to avoid a total loss.

Next steps: After revisions are made in April, the board will vote on the preliminary budget on April 17. Assuming it is approved, residents will have 30 days to review the preliminary budget before the board votes on a final plan sometime in May.

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