Burrell School District
|Burrell School District|
|1021 Puckety Church Road
Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, 15068
|Superintendent||Dr. Shannon Wagner|
|Specialist||Dr. Matthew Conner, Assistant Superintendent|
|Administrator||Mr. Bruce Coleman, Director of Non-Professional Services|
|Director||Mrs. Patricia A. Kelly, Director of Special Education|
|Principal||Mr. John Boylan, BHS|
|Principal||Mr. Brian Ferra, BMS, AD|
|Principal||Ms. Amy Lenart, BAES|
|Principal||Mr. Gregory Egnor, SES|
|Vice principal||Mr. James R. Croushore, BHS|
|Vice principal||Mr. Kenneth Pruitt, BMS|
|Head teacher||Ms. Jennifer Callahan, Business Administrator/Board Secretary|
|Pupils||1,925 pupils in 2010|
|• Grade 1||126|
|• Grade 2||141|
|• Grade 3||139|
|• Grade 4||131|
|• Grade 5||152|
|• Grade 6||161|
|• Grade 7||147|
|• Grade 8||139|
|• Grade 9||160|
|• Grade 10||171|
|• Grade 11||148|
|• Grade 12||151|
|• Other||Projected to be 1862 in 2019|
|Color(s)||Blue and White|
|Team name||Burrell Bucs|
|Budget||$25.1 million (2011-12)|
|Tuition||for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,948.96, HS - $9,040.48|
|Per Pupil Spending||$10,906 in 2008|
|Per Pupil Spending||$12,114.94 in 2010|
The Burrell School District is a small, rural, public school district located in northern Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The District is 18 miles (29 km) northeast of Pittsburgh. The Burrell School District serves the City of Lower Burrell and Upper Burrell Township. The district covers 27 square miles (70 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, Burrell School District serves a resident population of 14,848 people. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $19,871, while the median family income was $49,425. In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010. Per District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Burrell School District provided basic educational services to 2,023 pupils. The District reported employing: 135 teachers, 82 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 13 administrators. Burrell School District received more than $8.9 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.
The district operates Burrell High School (9th-12th), Charles A. Huston Middle School (6th-8th), Stewart School (4th-5th) and Bon Air School (K-3rd). The district is part of the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit which provides special education services to the district. The administrative complex of Burrell High School contains both levels of district-wide administration. Superintendent - Dr. Shannon Wagner and Assistant Superintendent Matthew Conner.
- 1 Governance
- 2 Academic achievement
- 3 Bon Air Elementary School
- 4 Stewart Elementary
- 5 Charles A. Huston Middle School
- 6 Burrell High School
- 7 Special education
- 8 Bullying policy
- 9 Budget
- 10 Extracurricular activities
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.
The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a " B-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.
Burrell School District was ranked 247th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2012, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the reading, writing, mathematics and science PSSAs.
- 2011 - 192nd
- 2010 - 178th
- 2009 - 163rd
- 2008 - 156th
- 2007 - 136th out of 501 school districts.
In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Burrell School District ranked 439th. In 2011, the district was 364th.  The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."
Western Pennsylvania local ranking Burrell School District was ranked 59th out of 105 western Pennsylvania school districts, in 2012, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs on: math, reading, writing and science. (includes 105 districts in: Allegheny County, Armstrong County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Washington County and Westmoreland County excludes Duquesne City SD & Midland Borough SD due to no high schools)
- 2011 - 50th
- 2010 - 46th 
- 2009 - 44th
In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Burrell School District was in the 66th percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best)
In 2011 and 2010 the District achieved AYP status under No Child Left Behind Act. In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania Public School Districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.
Bon Air Elementary School
Bon Air Elementary School is located at 3260 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 467 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 130 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 30 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.
Bon Air Elementary School achieved AYP status in both 2010 and 2011.
5th Grade Reading:
5th Grade Math:
- 4th Grade Science
- 2011 - 96%, (1% below basic), State – 82.9%
- 2010 - 80%, (4% below basic), State - 81%
Dating back into at least the 1950s, Bon Air Elementary was a small building that originally housed grades one through six. Kindergarten was later added. Eventually, other small schools (Gladeview, Upper Burrell, and Wills in Kinloch) in the Burrell School District closed, forcing the district to renovate Bon Air. Small parts of the old building can still be found in the new architecture. Bon Air Elementary was newly remodeled in 1997 in the Burrell School District. Construction of the building was completed in time for the beginning of the 1997 school year. A photo of the building on Google Maps can be found here.
The new building was completed in time for the 1997-1998 school year and housed grades Kindergarten through Fifth. At the start of the 2011-2012 school year, however, a major restructuring took place at the elementary level. This new configuration lead to Bon Air housing all of the Kindergarten through Third Grade students, while Stewart Elementary houses all of the Fourth and Fifth Graders for the district. Bon Air's principal is Ms. Amy Lenart.
The academic focus of the primary building is literacy. Students participate daily in 90 minutes of reading instruction, plus an additional 30 minutes of WIN (What I Need) time. Having a system of this nature in place, students are able to participate in literacy-focused instruction for two hours each day. Teachers are consistently using best practice strategies during instruction and students are assessed frequently to determine their reading success. The ultimate goal of the program is to strengthen students' literacy skills so that all students are at benchmark proficiency by the end of third grade.
Stewart Elementary School is located at 2880 Leechburg Road, Lower Burrell. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 368 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 91 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 23.5 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 5.667:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind. In 2010 and 2011, Stewart Elementary School achieved AYP status.
5th Grade Reading:
5th Grade Math:
- 4th Grade Science
- 2011 - 88%, (3% below basic), State – 82.9%
- 2010 - 81%, (5% below basic), State - 81%
Stewart Elementary School is the oldest of the schools in Burrell. The building's exterior has remained mostly unchanged in the long period of time it has been open, as can be seen on a Google Maps picture here.
Stewart School was built on the property of the Stewart Family farm in the 1930s. There are certain rumors that the land is still owned by the Stewarts, but rented by the district. The building was once the flagship building, but is now the lesser of two elementary schools.
Stewart Elementary School is the oldest of the four buildings and has undergone renovations from time to time to keep it "current". The inside has changed drastically, especially with the addition of computers and network jacks in virtually every room. Stewart, like Bon Air, once housed Kindergarten-Sixth, but now houses Fourth and Fifth grades. It has been proposed that Stewart should consolidate with Bon Air, forming one large elementary school. These proposals have been largely unpopular with the residents who live within Stewart's student radius, and no further action has been taken. The school's principal is Mr. Gregory Egnor.
Charles A. Huston Middle School
Huston Middle School is located at 1020 Puckety Church Road, Lower Burrell. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 122 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 30 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.
Charles A. Huston Middle School (more commonly known as Huston Middle School or HMS) is the second oldest building in the district, completed in 1964. A Google Maps picture of the building during construction can be seen here. Building administration includes both a principal and an assistant principal. The principal's duties mainly focus on administration and academic quality. The assistant principal is focused mainly on discipline. Mr. Brian Ferra is principal for the Middle School. The assistant principal position belongs to Mr. Kenneth Pruitt.
8th Grade Reading
8th Grade Math:
8th Grade Science:
- 2011 - 58% on grade level (21% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
- 2010 - 62% (16% below basic). State – 57%
- 2009 - 69% (11% below basic). State - 55%
- 2008 - 64% (16% below basic), State - 52%
In 2011, Huston Middle School 8th grade ranked 44th among Western Pennsylvania 8th grades for academic achievement. In 2010, the 8th grade ranked 33rd. In 2009, the 8th grade was ranked 30th out of 141 western Pennsylvania middle schools based on three years of student academic achievement in PSSAs in: reading, math writing and one year of science. (Includes schools in: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, and Washington County
7th Grade Reading
7th Grade Math:
6th Grade Reading:
6th Grade Math:
Originally, the building was named Burrell Junior High School and housed grades seven through nine. The 1980s marked change in the school, when the building was renamed to honor the former principal and then-superintendent Charles A. Huston, and to reflect the change to a sixth through eighth grade building. Huston Middle School has been remodeled and was finished in 2008. Charles Huston attended a final renovation ceremony for the official ending of the renovations. Charles Huston died soon afterward.
Renovation work to the building was started on June 1, 2006 with a ground-breaking ceremony (an article describing the renovation and ground-breaking can be found on the Burrell website).
Burrell High School
Burrell High School is the second newest building in the district. The picture from Google Maps shows the track/football field (black, bottom right) and the tennis courts (red, middle left). The district's administration, tennis court, swimming pool, athletic offices, and the track/football field are in the high school grounds. The school currently is home to grades nine through twelve. The principal is Mr. John Boylan and the assistant principal is Mr. James Croushore.
Burrell Senior High School was completed in the mid-1960s. Grades ten through twelve were housed in the building, and later changed to grades nine through twelve (the name also changed from Senior High to High).
Burrell High School is located at 1021 Puckety Church Road, Lower Burrell. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 627 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 145 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 39 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.
In 2011 and 2010, Burrell High School achieved AYP status.
- Graduation Rate
In 2011, Burrell High School's graduation rate was 94%. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Burrell High School's rate was 86% for 2010.
- According to former graduation rate calculations
- PSSA Results
- 11th Grade Reading
- 2011 - 79% on grade level, (9% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2010 - 73% (8% below basic). State - 66%
- 2009 - 68% on grade level. In Pennsylvania, 65% of 11th graders on grade level.
- 2008 - 75%, State - 65%
- 11th Grade Math:
- 2011 - 74%, on grade level (11% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2010 - 68%, (21% below basic). State - 59%
- 2009 - 57%, State - 56% 
- 2008 - 64%, State - 56%
- 11th Grade Science:
- 2011 - 41% on grade level (11% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2010 - 44% (11% below basic). State - 39%
- 2009 - 34%, State - 40%
- 2008 - 34%, State - 39%
College Remediation: According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 16% of Burrell School District graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges. Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years. Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.
In 2010-2011, 103 Burrell School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 503. The Math average score was 520. The Writing average score was 497. Pennsylvania ranked 40th among state with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479. In the United States 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.
The high school offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books. Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions. For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $26,878 for the program. In 2012, the Board approved Clarion University providing online course offerings to seniors and juniors at a cost of $300 per course. Courses include in the program are: biology, communication, computer science, education, English, history of jazz, math, meteorology, psychology, physical science and sociology.
In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress . To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the district's Special Education Department.
In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding. The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district's students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student's needs accrue the same level of costs. The state requires each district to have a three year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students. Overidentification of students in order to increase state funding has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.
The School District received a $1,104,478 supplement for special education services in 2010. For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.
The Burrell School District Administration reported that 63 or 3% of its students were gifted in 2009. By law, Burrell School District must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student's building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.
The school district administration reported there were zero incidents of bullying in the district in 2009. There were three incidents involving a knife.
The Burrell School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students. The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.
Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.
In 2011, the average teacher salary in Burrell School District was $66,230.06 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $16,936.86 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $72,166.92. According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers' total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation, including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.
In 2009, the district reported employing 212 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $55,113 and a top salary of $103,000. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, as well as other benefits. In 2010, Burrell School Board approved a new 5-year contract with the district's teachers union. Grant average annual raises of about 4.35 percent. The starting teacher salary will increase from $37,865 to $41,756 by the end of the 2015-16 year. The salary of a teacher with a master's degree who is at the maximum step, at $73,000 in 2010, increases by 2 percent per year. Teachers will contribute $135 per month by the end of the contract. The new contract was approved in a 7-2 vote with board members Linda Woiewodski and Tom Klebine dissenting.
In 2007, the district employed 122 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $46,361 for 180 days worked. As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.
Burrell School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $831.78 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent, for the 2007-08 school year, was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union. The school board promoted Assistant Superintendent Shannon Wagner to Superintendent in June 2009.
Reserves In 2008, Burrell School District reported $175,000 in an unreserved-designated fund balance. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $3,227,731. In 2010 the unreserved-designated fund balance had increased to $1,210,000.00. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was $3,303,065.
In 2008, the Burrell School District Administration reported that per pupil spending was $10,906 which ranked 401st among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the per pupil spending had increased to $12,114.94
In January 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.
In 2012, the District reported a decline in its overall assessment to $158,320,000 which was a decrease of $557,000, (0.04%) from last the 2011 tax base.
The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless the of personal wealth.
State basic education funding
In 2011-12, the district received a $5,478,613 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding. Additionally, Burrell School District received $104,315 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011. The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12. In 2010, the district reported that 490 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.
For the 2010-11 budget year, the Burrell School District received a 2.89% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $5,921,396. In Westmoreland County, the highest increase in Basic Education Funding was a 7.40% increase awarded to Yough School District. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase among all Pennsylvania school district, in 2010-11, went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.
In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 5.02% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $5,753,428. Among the public school districts in Westmoreland County, the highest increase went to Southmoreland School District which got a 6.44% increase, in state basic education funding. The state's Basic Education Funding to Burrell School District in 2008-09 was $5,478,612.74. Ninety school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009. The amount of increase each school district receives is set by the Governor and the Secretary of Education as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. In 2009, the district reported that 421 pupils received a free or reduced price breakfast and lunch due to the family meeting federal poverty levels.
Accountability Block Grants
Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania's school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students, For 2010-11, Burrell School District applied for and received $283,136 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten, to train teachers to improve their instruction and to pay teachers to write new curriculum.
Classrooms for the Future grant
The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. The Burrell School District was denied funding by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the district administration did not apply for funding. The district received $105,874 in 2008-09. In Westmoreland County the highest award was given to Franklin Regional School District - $449,073. The highest funding state wide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.
Federal Stimulus grant
The district received an extra $1,107,431 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. The funding is for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.
Race to the Top grant
Burrell School District officials applied for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement. Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate. Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.
Common Cents state initiative
The School Board elected to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars. After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.
Real estate taxes
Property tax rates in 2011-12 were set by the school board at 83.5000 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts. The school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, necessitating a state board equalization of the tax rates between the counties.
- 2010-11 - 83.5000 mills
- 2009-10 - 82.5000 mills.
- 2008-09 - 82.5000 mills.
- 2007-08 - 78.7000 mills.
- 2006-07 - 73.9000 mills.
Act 1 Adjusted Index
The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year. In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten the exceptions to the Act 1 Index. The following exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school's share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.
The School District Adjusted Index for the Burrell School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.
- 2006-07 - 5.1%, Base 3.9%
- 2007-08 - 4.5%, Base 3.4%
- 2008-09 - 5.7%, Base 4.4%
- 2009-10 - 5.4%, Base 4.1%
- 2010-11 - 3.8%, Base 2.9%
- 2011-12 - 1.8%, Base 1.4%
- 2012-13 - 2.3%, Base 1.7%
For the 2012-13 budget year, Burrell School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.
For the 2011-12 school year, Burrell School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district's index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.
Burrell School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011. For 2009-10 school budget, the board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index. In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.
Property tax relief
In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Burrell School District was $156 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 4,502 property owners applied for the tax relief. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Westmoreland County, 62% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. In Greene County, the highest amount of tax relief in 2010, went to property owners in School District. The highest property tax relief in Pennsylvania went to the residents of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead. This was the third year they were the top recipient.
Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently, individual with income much more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.
Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).
By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those home schooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools. In 2009, the school was ordered to permit a parochial student to participate in band.
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