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Phoenixville, PA: Possible tax increase due to SPED costs; more aides being hired

Jan 31, 2019, Exton (PA) Mercury: Phoenixville schools' $96M preliminary budget has $2.2M deficit, may raise taxes above 2.3% cap https://www.pottsmerc.com/news/phoenixville-schools-m-preliminary-budget-has-m-deficit-may-raise/article_89ae34da-2576-11e9-b0fb-6f05fbf56c2b.html The $96 million preliminary 2019-2020 school budget up for a vote Feb. 11 has a $2.2 million deficit even if taxes are raised by 2.3 percent. If adopted unchanged, it would translate into a $95 tax hike for owners of property assessed at $135,000, the district's median assessment, according to a presentation made to the school board Jan. 14. But taxes in the school district could go beyond the 2.3 percent cap set by Pennsylvania's Act 1. In a legal notice published in The Mercury, the district also announced that it may seek "exceptions" to the tax cap, which is called an "index." Under Act 1, school boards can adopt a budget that exceeds its annual index either by seeking voter approval in the spring primary, an extremely rare occurrence, or by seeking "exceptions" for a few specified reasons. One of those specified reasons is special education costs which, according to the presentation the state underfunded in Phoenixville by $3.7 million in the current school year. Salaries and benefits are usually the largest portion of any school budget and in the past year, six of the 10 positions added to the budget were for full-time special education aides and two more for English language development, both of which were listed in the budget presentations as "unfunded state mandates." …