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District May Raise Taxes to Pay State’s Share for School

Taxpayers in one school district in Wayne County could end up paying higher taxes all because the state claims it doesn’t have the money it owes for construction of a new elementary school.

People we spoke with in the Western Wayne School District are not to happy to hear the school board is considering raising taxes at most 6 percent.

It would need approval from Harrisburg first but since EverGreen Elementary School was built, district leaders said they’ve been footing the bill for the state and Western Wayne is running out of money.

EverGreen Elementary School near Hamlin has been open for a couple of years now and at a price tag of about $20 million, the Western Wayne School District planned to pay for it in part with state money.

That money has not flowed from Harrisburg and now district leaders said along with skyrocketing pension costs, the district has had to pay up.

“As a result we’ve had to dip into our fund balance which is our reserve. We’ve gotten to the point where there’s no more dipping,” said Western Wayne Superintendent Clayton LaCoe.

LaCoe said the district now faces more than a $1 million budget shortfall. Letters went out to taxpayers saying the school board is asking for permission to raise taxes as much as 6 percent or nearly $100 more per year for every $100,000 a property is assessed.

“It sounds like it’s going to be hard to take, hard to take. We are maxed out on what we’re paying already, don’t know where it’s going to come from,” said Randy Miller of Lake Township.

People we spoke with in the Western Wayne School District said they already pay a considerable amount in taxes.

“Seems like it never ends, being taxed for everything,” said Patrick Shelley who shells out more than $10,000 in taxes every year on both his home and business.

“They’re already high, and you can’t afford it, most people can’t afford to pay that as it is,” said Kaylie Wilmot of Lake Ariel.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Department of Education said about 150 public school building projects are in the same boat as Western Wayne’s EverGreen. There’s not enough money set aside in the budget to pay the districts at this time.

Western Wayne will get its money from the state but there’s no telling when.

“They’re in a position right now where their back’s against the wall, we need to be able to generate the revenue,” said LaCoe of the district’s school board.

State officials said the Rendell administration approved more projects than the budget could pay for and Governor Tom Corbett put a moratorium on any state funding for new projects.

Western Wayne School District officials hope lawmakers do something to get that money flowing again to help pay for the school that’s already been built.

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