GROVE CITY – Grove City school board members are leaning toward a property tax increase for next school year.

“It’s been a number of years since we touched the taxes, and that’s not sustainable,” board member Dr. Constance Nichols said at Monday night’s work session.

Board members are expected to vote Monday, June 14, on the 2021-22 budget, and some of them are in favor of raising taxes by 2.02 mills.

Nichols remembers being nervous about feedback from the community the last time the board raised taxes; she was board president at the time.

The rates went up by 1.98 mills for the 2018-19 school year, bringing the millage to 63.98.

After that budget was approved, a former board member told Nichols that while a tax increase is not popular, district leaders have to look “well down the road.”

“What we do now actually impacts next year and the year after,” board President Doug Gerwick said.

Adopting a budget is one of the most important decisions a board makes, and the Grove City board has been doing a better job of acknowledging that they have to be ready to react to changing needs, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch said.

If the board doesn’t raise taxes in the near future or doesn’t raise them enough, there won’t be adequate budgetary reserves, and that money should not be used as a funding method year in and year out, Gerwick said.

Not raising taxes next school year could mean a large tax increase the following year, and the district can’t always count on enough federal and state funding.

Gerwick said he couldn’t imagine cutting extra-curricular activities, athletics or staff in order to balance the budget, which, as proposed, carries a deficit of about $2.2 million with revenues at $43,511,399 and expenses at $45,718,937.

He’s a fiscal conservative but understands that the board sometimes has to “bite the bullet” to provide what the students deserve.

“I think we’re at that kind of moment,” Nichols said of proposing a tax increase.

Finch created a few different budget proposals with various tax increases, noting that the district’s state Act 1 allowance is 2.49 mills.

The Act 1 index means that the district can raise property taxes by a certain amount without voter approval or a special exception from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The board can’t commit to setting tax rates beyond next school year, but it’s helpful to look ahead, Finch said.

Several board members including Gerwick and Nichols voiced their approval of a 2.02-mill increase, with Nichols adding that they’ve been provided with a very comprehensive budget.

They need to consider long-term planning goals; no tax increase would mean the board is not doing its job, Gerwick said.

More information about the proposed budget can be found on the district’s website: www.grovecity.k12.pa.us

Any changes made to the budget between now and Monday will be explained at the voting meeting, Finch said.

The June 14 meeting starts at 7 p.m., and community members can attend via Zoom video or phone. The agenda and connection information will be posted on the district’s website.

Also at Monday’s work session:

Finch announced that a special board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 23 to award a contract for the high school parking and traffic flow project.

The bids are being opened June 22, and work is expected to start July 1.

Also at the special meeting, the board is expected to update the district’s health and safety plan in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That could include allowing the public to attend board meetings in-person, Finch said.

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