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Residents in the Mechanicsburg Area School District will pay more in real estate taxes in the upcoming fiscal year.

The Mechanicsburg Area School Board has approved a final general fund budget for 2018-19 that will increase real estate taxes by 2.4 percent.

The finalized $70.5 million district spending plan raises the district’s real estate tax levy from the 2017-18 rate of 13.0560 mills to 13.3693 mills. A property owner assessed at the district’s average value of $176,025 will pay an annual total of $2,353 in real estate taxes for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July, an increase of $55.

The 2.4 percent tax increase meets the index set for the district by the state Department of Education for the 2018-19 fiscal year from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The school board was mandated to finalize a 2018-19 budget before July 1.

District business administrator Gregory Longwell said last month that money raised by the tax increase will go toward operational costs and capital projects in the district. Financial advisers recommended earlier this year that the district should raise taxes by at least 1 percent over the next three years to help finance several capital improvement projects now underway or planned within the next few years.

Also, Mechanicsburg administrators are using $1.3 million from the district’s general fund reserves to absorb an initial deficit in next year’s budget. Of that, $738,299 will go toward the district’s Public School Employee Retirement System fund, while another $200,000 is dedicated to technology. The rest will fund general operations and reserves.

Next year’s largest increases in general expenditure involve an additional $1,265,359, or 4.5 percent, for employee salaries and $1,404,632, or 7.3 percent, more in benefits that includes medical and other types of insurance, plus a higher mandated contribution to the state Public School Employee Retirement System. The district’s PSERS requirement continues to rise steadily on a yearly basis, increasing from 32.57 percent to 33.43 percent for next year.

Employee salary costs also are increasing next year due in part to 12.5 new staff positions, a direct result of rising student enrollment figures. Other increased employee costs are due to contracted salary updates. Professional staff additions at the elementary level include three teachers, a librarian and a counselor. The middle school will get three additional core teachers and a new family and consumer science teacher. The district’s special education department is to receive an additional emotional support teacher and an instructor for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

In a related matter, Longwell said the district issued senior tax rebates for 97 properties during 2017-18, the first year of the district’s rebate program for qualified senior citizens age 75 and older. The program mirrors a similar state program available for seniors. For more information, contact the Mechanicsburg Area School District offices at 717-691-4500.

Other action

In other news, the board approved an addendum to a developer’s agreement with the Borough of Mechanicsburg regarding blasting in a high-density residential area for the ongoing Kindergarten Academy project. Builders previously told borough officials that they expect to encounter rock in the rear area of the school and in a basin area around Koser Park during construction.

The district is in the process of renovating existing portions of the 55-year-old building on South Filbert Street and adding a classroom wing to accommodate growing enrollment. A second floor built over the new classroom wing will accommodate the district’s relocated administration offices. Completion is scheduled for January 2019.

On March 20, Mechanicsburg Area School District officials and project contractors attended a borough council meeting to request a waiver of an existing borough prohibition of blasting in a high-density residential area for the project. At that time, school district officials were told to contact the borough manager for further discussion.

The addendum to the developer’s agreement specifies that the developer or the district must notify the borough at least 10 days prior to any blasting. It lists several conditions, including:

  • Copies of materials submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection for a blasting activity permit, if requested by borough.
  • A site map depicting the proposed location, hole diameter and depth, and spacing of each blast hole. The site map must show distances to nearest buildings, adjacent underground utilities line, distances to public roads, and consistency with DEP submissions.
  • A schedule for blasting activities, including anticipated days and times.
  • A plan outlining precautions to protect the public and public infrastructure.
  • All residents within 200 feet blast site are informed of the proposed blasting operation.

Finally, the school board approved several agreements with Upper Allen Township regarding site work behind Elmwood Elementary School. The agreements cover the developer’s financial security, escrow, and storm water facilities and best management practices.

Planned site work at Elmwood includes relocating the parent drop-off area to the rear of the building and making the front area a drop-off area for buses only. A new drive loop for parents dropping off students will run one-way from a Shepherdstown Road entrance behind the school to a rear building exit. The new drop-off loops are slated for completion by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

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