DALLAS TWP. — While the decision to switch bus companies after decades with locally owned Emanuel Bus Lines dominated Monday’s meeting, the Dallas School Board did vote on another key item: A preliminary budget that increases taxes by 2 percent this fall.
“That’s about $37 for the average property owner,” Business Manager Grant Palfey told the board.
It’s also the maximum increase allowed under the state law known as Act 1 of 2006. That law sets annual limits on district tax hikes that can only be exceeded either through a voter referendum or by successfully applying to the state for an exception, granted for limited reasons generally considered beyond district control, such as high special education costs or pension contributions.
The budget calls for total spending of nearly $33.1 million, up from about $32.9 million this year. The bulk of that is salaries and benefits, which total about $21.6 million, or 64 percent of all spending. Debt payment is the next biggest item, $4.4 million, or about 20 percent.
Local taxes — primarily property taxes — make up 66.4 percent of total income.
In that respect, the district has been lucky, Palfey said, as the number of taxable properties actually declined from 10,339 to 10,261, yet the total assessed value nudged up from from $1.6 billion to $1.606 billion.
In what has become an annual feature of the presentation, Palfey compared the percentage of the total budget covered by state money versus local money. In 1980, the state paid for 43.2 percent of the district’s total spending. In 2000, it had dropped to 36.1 percent, and this year it is 31 percent.
Palfey also noted the district will take a small hit from the federal “sequestration” budget cuts, losing about $38,000 in federal money.
Federal funding, traditionally a small part of any district budget, hinges heavily on the percentage of students from low-income families, and Dallas has historically received modest amounts. The preliminary budget anticipates $857,331, or just under 2.6 percent of total spending.