Hampton residents to see tax hike

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Residents of the Hampton Township School District will face higher tax bills, thanks in part to rising labor costs.

The real estate tax rate will increase by 0.43 mills, or 2.27 percent, as part of the 2019-20 operating budget the school board approved by a 6-1 vote June 10.

Mandated contributions to the state’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System continue to be one of the biggest expenditures.

Jeffrey Kline, director of administrative services, said PSERS contributions make up 7.84 percent of the close to $54 million budget, up from 1.45 percent in 2010-11.

In the past nine years, he said, PSERS contributions by the district have increased by $3.6 million.

“The PSERS increases have put extra pressure on all other aspects of the budget,” Kline said.

Kline said the millage increase is targeted for the high school project, which will see the building revamped. Kline said funds generated by this increase are approximately $700,000 and will give the district more budgetary capacity to pay for the potential bond issue in a few years.

The tax increase comes on the heels of a 0.96 percent (0.18 mills) hike last year.

“All recent Hampton Township School District budgets have been challenging,” Kline said.

He expects the 2019-20 millage rate to keep the district as the ninth or 10th lowest in Allegheny County.

Board member Larry Vasko voted no for the budget because it did not include user fees for activities.

“Although the school district needs to provide (extracurricular) activities like athletics and band, I don’t think the community should have to pay the entire cost,” Vasko said. “Many of our neighboring districts have an activity fee to participate in sports and band.

“Hampton Township charges a fee for use of the community pool and the community center. I believe the school district should assess an activity fee, with an exemption for families eligible for free or reduced lunch.”

Vasko did not want to burden residents.

“Our community has been subjected to an increase in the sewer fees, a 17-percent township real estate tax increase, and now the school tax increase,” Vasko said. “This is especially hard on our seniors who are on fixed income.

“The tax increase could have been lowered by the amount of the proposed activity fees.”

Board Vice President Jill Hamlin said board members are constantly looking for ways to improve the schools with as little impact on taxpayers as possible.

“I think we’ve done a very good job of that, and I think this year is no different,” Hamlin said. “We talked a lot this year about the changing academic needs of our students, as well as their safety, security and mental wellness, and how our facilities are supporting those needs.

“All of these conversations are part of the budget-making process, and likely will be for the next several years.”

Board Treasurer Robert Shages said it is a balancing act. “(We) do the best we can,” he said.