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Starting July 1, residents in the Mechanicsburg Area School District can expect to receive higher real estate tax bills than last year.

On Tuesday night, the Mechanicsburg Area School Board unanimously finalized a 2019-20 general fund budget of $74,545,884 for the district that includes a 2.7 percent increase in real estate taxes.

A 2.7 percent tax increase meets the district’s index for the 2019-20 fiscal year set by the state Department of Education. The next fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, 2020. The district’s tax increase includes a 1-mill allotment that will be applied to the district’s debt service, part of a continuing four-year plan than began in 2018-19 to fund ongoing renovations and/or expansions to all district buildings over the next several years.

As proposed, the tax increase would raise the district’s real estate tax levy from its present rate of 13.3693 mills to 13.7303 mills for next year.

A property owner assessed at the district’s average value of $186,200 would pay an annual total of $2,557 in real estate taxes for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July, an increase of $68, district business manager Gregory Longwell said.

District spending is estimated to increase by $4,026,856 for 2019-20, which includes the addition of 15 new staff positions. Superintendent Mark Leidy said last month that more staff is needed for the district to retain its current teacher/student ratio due to increasing student enrollment.

At the elementary level, this includes five regular classroom teachers and two fine and applied art instructors. For the middle school, an additional math teacher and another science teacher are needed to evenly split each of the school’s grades into three student teams. The middle school also is slated to have a new health/physical education instruction, while an additional building nurse is planned at the elementary level.

Feasibility study update

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Also on Tuesday, district administrators presented an update on preparations to “revisit” the district’s 2015-16 feasibility study. In March 2019, the school board approved an update to the feasibility study that would focus on growth in the district’s secondary grades.

“What I thought was four to five years out is really only two to three years out,” Superintendent Mark Leidy said on Tuesday.

In 2016, Mechanicsburg initiated a contract with DecisionInsite to update the district’s enrollment projections annually. According to the latest predictions by DecisionInsite, enrollment at the high school is expected to reach 1,436 by 2024-25 and continue to expand to 1,603 by 2026-27.

At the middle school, enrollment is predicted to jump to more than 1,200 by 2024-25 and, like the high school, will continue to grow at least through 2027-28.

Overall, district enrollment is expected increase by 700 students over the next four years, Leidy said on Tuesday. The district’s enrollment currently totals around 4,400 students.

Earlier this year, the district formed separate committees to discuss enrollment projections at the high school and middle school over the next several years and to provide recommendations for consideration by the school board. The committee is comprised of district administrators, staff, school board directors and other members of the community.

Administrators are relaying design ideas renovating the district’s secondary buildings to architects, who could present completed sketch plans to officials as soon as this fall, Leidy said.

Officials have no timeline at this point for building projects at the secondary level.

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