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Riverview Officials Preparing 'Very Preliminary' Budget

A preliminary budget must be approved by February for the district to apply for tax exceptions.

Riverview officials are working on preparing a preliminary budget that they hope to approve next month.

Though a final budget is not due until the end of June, districts that are considering increasing taxes above the allowed state maximum under Pennsylvania's Act 1 of 2006 must send a preliminary budget to the state department of education.

To raise taxes above the Act 1 index, which is 0.21 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year, districts must apply for allowed exceptions—for special education costs, pensions, etc. Riverview School District followed the same procedure last year.

District Business Manager Frank Thompson also said officials would have to lower the millage rate due to the county-wide reassessments.

Under state law, taxing bodies must adjust millage rates to be "revenue neutral." However, municipalities are able to set a final millage rate allowing an additional 5 percent in revenue. School districts can't do that, according to district Solicitor Pat Clair.

"You don't have a 5 percent windfall grace, you only have an index grace for the year prior," he said. "It's something that has a lot of people pulling their hair out."

Currently, the district's rate is 25.355 mills. Thompson said the "revenue neutral" rate is 20.2948 mills, meaning officials could increase the tax rate to 20.7209 mills at the most under Act 1.

Thompson said there currently is a $355,000 deficit, but it's still very early in the budget process.

Officials still don't know how much money the district will receive from the state or about potential personnel changes, such as retirements—teachers have until April 1 to announce their retirement to administration.

Thompson said he's also trying to determine the valuation of the new properties in the Edgewater at Oakmont housing plan.

"We will have the next five months to receive more information," Thompson said.

Board President John Hackworth agreed.

"View this as a very preliminary budget," he said. "We have no intention of ending up with (a $355,000) deficit.

"We're required to provide a preliminary budget even though we haven't had the time or information available to go into a realistic budget."

The proposed preliminary budget will be available for public review by Thursday, Jan. 31. Officials have until Feb. 20 to adopt a preliminary budget.

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