Three years, three tax increases: Erie School District leaders forward preliminary budget

The budget put forward by Erie School District leaders proposes a 2.46 percent property tax increase.

A final decision on the budget doesn’t need to be made until June 30 but if things remain as they are, it will be the third straight year that the district has raised taxes.

After being removed from Pennsylvania’s financial watch list in September, Erie School District leaders say the goal is a straight path fiscally.

That means a plan that looks ahead five years, as a part of that effort a tax hike may be on the horizon.

“Looking at it, based on where our budget is right now, we’re going to need a 2.46 percent increase in our real estate taxes to balance through the five year period. And that’s what the board adopted tonight,” said Brian Polito, superintendent of the Erie School District.

Pennsylvania requires districts to adopt a “work-in-progress” budget at least 30 days before the June 30 deadline.

So, while some components of this plan may change by the end of June, the tax increase is supported by administration.

If the district does move forward with a tax increase, it will be the third straight year that they’ve done so.

The district is still supported by a firm that supported them when they were on financial watch. It is their recommendation that taxes increase to help maintain a fund balance and the district is complying.

“We have public financial management. They were our consultants when we were on financial watch and actually updated five-year projections. Our whole goal with the budget is to ensure that our budget is balanced for a five-year period,” Polito said.

In other businesses, the district is looking to provide a boost to its academics, specifically at Erie High School.

They’re looking at bringing in outside help with more than $550,000 of pandemic relief funds to turnaround what the state deems an educational decline at Erie High.

“We were actually put into ATSI, it’s a federal designation this year, indicating that we have a number of sub-groups that are underperforming what the state would like us to,” Polito explained. “We’re bringing in a turnaround group expert to work with our administrators and our teachers on best practices and start to build up some systems and structures to support our students better and help move them forward academically.”

The district has time to make changes to the budget. They’ll take into consideration what the state provides in the weeks to come.

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