PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For five years, there have been reductions in state and federal funding for schools.

During the same time period, mandated costs have increased and school districts are left to make up the gap. Now, many school districts across Pennsylvania plan to balance their budgets by increasing property taxes or reducing staff.

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Seventy percent of districts across the state plan to raise property taxes, and 41 percent plan to reduce their staff. In addition, some of Pennsylvania’s poorest districts plan to reduce or eliminate certain programs.

That’s according to the latest budget survey from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

The Montour School Board plans to discuss a possible tax increase this week. Officials have been analyzing the district’s budget for months. If a tax increase is approved to make up budget shortfalls, it would be the first tax increase in the district in eight years.

“Our Title One Index cap would only allow us to raise taxes to .33 of a mil, which for the average homeowner in Montour, that would be about $40 a year in taxes,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Ghilani.

Officials say desperate times call for desperate measures. The Montour School District has the fourth lowest millage rate in Allegheny County.

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“By not raising taxes we have not kept pace with increases in the state retirement system or with the health care increase in costs and those are increases that are out of our control,” said Dr. Ghilani.

Just last week the district broke ground for a new elementary school, which consolidates two other schools which will close.

The superintendent says that project is not tied to this proposed hike and will be funded by tax increment finance revenue.

“Those costs really aren’t associated with the budget,” he said. “The majority of the cost from the new project debt service will be covered by an expiring TIF from the Robinson Mall area and other businesses.”

The school board is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the possible increase, along with other regularly scheduled business.

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