Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WILKES-BARRE, PA — While the Wilkes-Barre Area School District budget committee continued to discuss a possible 2.9 percent tax increase at a Tuesday noon meeting — talk that prompted stinging rebukes from resident Sam Troy — the tone of the conversation seemed to shift from needing the tax hike to cover a 2014-15 shortfall to needing it to cover future costs.
Business manager Leonard Pryzwara noted the proposed budget sets aside 0.15 mills for debt service, and suggested an annual increase along those lines to cover future repair or construction costs. A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value. The current tax rate is 15.22 mills. A 2.9 percent increase — the maximum allowed at Wilkes-Barre Area this year by state law — would raise the rate to 15.921 mills.
Financial rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a news release Monday saying that it was upgrading the county’s long-term rating by one step, from an A+ to AA-.
The upgrade gives Allegheny County its highest rating in nearly 12 years, the county announced today in a news release.
“This is great news for Allegheny County and really reflects that we are heading in the right direction and making headway in improving our financial outlook,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement. “I am really proud of the job we have done in improving the fund balance, having an end-of-year cash balance, reducing reliance on one-time revenues for our budget and working cooperatively to address the issues that have impacted our bottom line.”
The district’s favorable A-plus credit rating achieved by years of good financial management, a Standard and Poor’s rating services report stated, is one reason the district was able to reduce the original 4.36 percent interest rate and obtain the savings.
Market conditions providing 40-year low bond interest rates were another reason.
“The savings are higher than the estimate we had in September,” Business Manager Michelle Krebs said.