Hampton Township School District’s tax rate 7th-lowest in Allegheny County

Friday, August 16, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Hampton Township School District has the seventh-lowest tax millage rate for the 2019-20 school year compared with other school districts in Allegheny County, according to an Allegheny County Intermediate Unit school district budget and real estate tax schedule.

HTSD reflects a current millage rate of 19.38 for 2019-20. Last year, it was ninth lowest despite a lower rate of 18.95 and 11th lowest in the 2017-18 school year at a 18.77 tax rate, according to the AIU listing.

This is out of 42 districts.

Hampton improved its tax rate ranking despite a recent increase in its tax rate by 2.3% or 0.43 mills for the current school year, according to Jeff Kline, director of administration for HTSD, who presented the AIU report at the August school board meeting.

Taxes for Hampton residents were raised to an Act 1 index limit for 2019-20, a budgeting decision approved by the school board last spring partly in anticipation of the coming renovation at the high school. This will help accommodate the multi-year high school renovation debt service funding plan.

The Act 1 index is an annual millage rate level set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education that school districts may not exceed without applying for an exemption.

Before the current year, Hampton’s recent tax increases have been below the yearly Act 1 index, Kline said.

The report’s comparison shows several other school districts raised taxes higher than Hampton did this year, Kline said.

This year, North Allegheny has the sixth lowest rate — 19.14 mills — preceded by North Hills. West Allegheny is fourth, Montour third and Chartiers Valley second. Duquesne City is the lowest at 17.50 mills.

“I think what it shows in the big picture is that most school districts are facing financial challenges due to rising PSERS costs, small increases in state education subsidies while balancing the expectations for

high-quality programs,” he said.

PSERS is the Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System in which each school district must fund in its annual budget. However, Hampton was proactive in planning and created a PSERS Stabilization Fund in the 2011-12 fiscal year to help meet its funding commitment.

The high school renovation plan discussed in April and May will require incremental tax increases for three years, including the current year. This likely will cause Hampton’s tax rate change from being the seventh lowest, said Kline.

A plan to partly fund the renovation was hoped for in a possible PlanCon submission in July, but the state did not lift a moratorium that would allow school districts to submit an application for funding, according to an update last school board meeting by Cassandra Renninger, a registered architect and principal of VEBH Architects, which presented a conceptual design for the high school renovation.

The PlanCon was a funding opportunity through the state department of education. According to Renninger, there will be a new PlanCon submission opportunity July 1.

The estimated total cost ranges between $30 million and $45 million, according to Kline.

Renninger said the district is “still at the onset” of the planning process.

There will be more discussions on project scopes and budget this fall, said Kline.

He is also hopeful that Hampton will continue to be lower than other school districts in future millage rate comparisons.

“It’s impossible to project what other school district’s tax rates will be in the future, but I fully expect that we will remain in the lower third in tax rate of the 42 county school districts,” he said.

The school district with the highest millage rate is Brentwood at 31.55.

Overall, Allegheny County school district had an average of 22.68 tax millage rate for 2019-20, according to the report.