GROVE CITY – Grove City Area School Board approved a preliminary 2019-20 budget Monday, with a property tax increase of roughly 1.5 percent.

Dr. Constance Nichols, board president, said the proposed tax hike, which amounts to about 1 mill, might change before the $42.5 million budget is finalized in June.

“I think there is an opportunity to move our budget,” Nichols said.

The board approved the preliminary budget in a vote of 6-3. Nichols, Heather Baker, Roberta Hensel, Dr. Michael O’Donovan, Dr. Armando Sciullo and Patty Wilson voted for the preliminary budget while Ray Abplanalp, Carolyn Oppenheimer and J. Scott Somora cast dissenting votes.

Under the district’s 2018-19 budget, Grove City Area School District’s property tax is 63.98 mills.

Abplanalp protested any tax hike, in part because the district will receive $251,430 from a real estate transfer tax from property General Electric sold earlier this year to Wabtec, Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. The property is in Grove City and Pine Township, which split more than $500,000 – one percent of the total sales price – with the school district.

Abplanalp said the revenue more than covers what 1 mill of tax would generate for the district, which is $180,365.

“That’s a big number,” he said.

Abplanalp said there is no reason to increase taxes because district officials didn’t anticipate the sale.

“We got a windfall of $251,000 no one knew was coming,” he said.

Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch said Grove City should be careful about using a one-time windfall for annual expenses, considering the uncertainty of sufficient state funding long-term.

Finch said he wouldn’t need to cut programs this year if the board opted to adopt a final budget without a tax increase, but the impact would be felt over the long run.

Oppenheimer said she did not see a problem keeping taxes unchanged based on district finances for the last nine years.

Sciullo disagreed, saying he saw the need for a buffer.

“Ten years from now, it can be an issue,” he said.

Abplanalp said he does not want the district to operate without sufficient money.

“I’m not saying make it as skinny as you can make it,” he said. “I get we need some comfort in there.”

However, Abplanalp said an increase is not necessary like it was last year, when the board increased property taxes by nearly 2 mills.

“This year, I don’t see the same need,” he said.

Nichols said it was time to move forward.

“We need to get a preliminary budget passed,” she said.

The school board’s next work session is 6 p.m. June 3 with the next voting meeting June 10.