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City School Board Approves Budget, Puts Off Tax Hike

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh School Board approved a budget for city schools Wednesday night, but postponed action on raising property taxes, as recommended by Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane.

“They approved the budget, that’s first, so our 2013 budget has been approved,” Lane told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

It’s a $521.8 million general fund budget, with spending down $8 million or 1.5 percent over 2012.

The budget calls for no further school closings, but is still in deficit, requiring nearly $10 million from its fund balance to offset the shortfall.

“They did not approve the millage rate for property tax. That will come up in January,” said Lane.

After 11 years of no property tax increase, Lane has asked for a modest millage rate hike — about $30 on every $150,000 assessed value — to be able to pay refunds if property owners successfully appeal their new assessments.

The board put off action on that.

The board did approve the earned income tax rate — unchanged at two percent of earned income.

Lane says the district cannot keep balancing budgets by taking money out of its fund balance.

“It’s like living off your savings account,” she said. “Sooner or later, you’ve exhausted it. And in 2015 that’s where we’ll be without pretty significant changes.”

The Pittsburgh School District has made significant cuts in recent years, reducing the number of schools from 93 in 2003 to 53 right now.

That reflects a drop in students — down 28 percent over the same period — and a 32 percent cut in the workforce.

But it’s not enough — especially because of reductions in state dollars — all of which could lead to higher taxes and more school closures in the years ahead.

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