New Castle News

November 6, 2013

City schools could hike taxes, but didn’t

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Editor, The News:

I believe that every citizen has the responsibility to speak and write the truth.

In a recent letter, Ed Kelley perpetuated some untruths about the New Castle Area School District’s finances.

He states in his letter that “the state has limited school districts from gouging property owners by setting millage limits ... Therefore, they could not raise property taxes without voter approval (referendum). Gabriel and the board had nowhere to go when it came to raising taxes.”

These statements are totally false. Permit me to quote directly from the Pennsylvania Public School Code: “Real estate tax millage shall not exceed 25 mills on the actual value of property.” No referendum required.

Currently, New Castle Area School District’s millage is 17.27 and has been that since I took office as superintendent in 2002. School taxes could have been raised for the past 10 years an average of 3 to 6 percent yearly but fiscal responsibility to taxpayers prevailed.

Kelley goes on to say that “they showed their fiscal irresponsibility by burying the property owners in debt — $100 million.”

The number that appears on the district’s audited financial statement under bonds payable is approximately $60 million as of June 2012. Kelley and anybody else making this ludicrous statement can reference the New Castle Area School District’s 2011-2012 audit for these figures.

He refers to our debt as “burying” our taxpayers. I call it investing in our students’ future by consolidating buildings and constructing two new schools to afford our children a more conducive learning environment.

I stand by my words: “During George Gabriel’s tenure as superintendent of schools, there was never a tax increase.” By the way, we amassed a fund balance of $14,800,000. Now that’s fiscal responsibility.

George J. Gabriel

Lynn Street

New Castle