IF YOU WANT to influence changes in your school district property taxes next August, start acting now.
By state law, districts have until June 30 to adopt a final budget for the 2013-14 school year. Yet school boards at Wilkes-Barre Area and Dallas sounded the start of budgeting season at their Monday meetings by voting to keep any tax increase at or below a state-set maximum.
This early budgeting comes courtesy of the state law known as Act 1 of 2006. The law requires the state to set annual maximum tax increases for all school districts. These limits are known, unimaginatively, as the Act 1 index.
If a district intends to exceed the limit, it must either seek state approval under several exemptions or seek voter approval in the spring primary. Either way, said district must approve a preliminary budget in February so it has enough time to pursue those options.
If, on the other hand, a school board wants more time to make a preliminary budget, it has to pass a resolution in January or early February promising to abide by the Act 1 Index. Doing so allows them to delay a preliminary budget until May.
Either way, the budgeting process is beginning in your district. Get involved now. By the time that final budget comes up for a vote, things are usually settled and immune to public comment.
To help, we provide a list of this year's Act I limits for Luzerne County districts. Each district must either promise not to increase taxes by more than their individual index, or justify any bigger increase to the state or to you.
Give your opinion and ideas now. Attend the next meeting of your school board; take this list along and ask if the board intends to stick to the index. If they expect to exceed it, ask why and by how much.
Be fair to them. They are in the very early stages of complex planning. Don't demand definitive details, but do become informed and involved.
Because when they say 2.4 percent increase, they are talking about a decrease in your bank account. Make sure they can justify it.
Crestwood - 2.2 percent
Dallas - 2.0 percent
Greater Nanticoke Area - 2.5 percent
Hanover Area - 2.4 percent
Hazleton Area - 2.4 percent
Lake-Lehman - 2.1 percent
Northwest Area - 2.4 percent
Pittston Area - 2.3 percent
Wilkes-Barre Area - 2.4 percent
Wyoming Area - 2.3 percent
Wyoming Valley West - 2.4 percent