Ridgway Area School District

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Ridgway Area School District
Map of Elk County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Achievement Through Learning
Address
62 School Drive
Ridgway, Pennsylvania, Elk County, 15853-9803
United States
Information
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent Dr. Michael O’Brien hired August 9, 2011 to 8/8/2014 (salary $115,000)
Specialist Mr. Rhoads, Finance Manager
School number (814) 773-3146
Administrator Mrs. Scull, Asst. to Supt. for Spec. Ed.
Principal Heather A. McMahon-Vargas, MS & HS
Principal Mrs. Herzing, FSG
Faculty 80 teachers 2010
Grades K-12
Age 5 years old to 21 years for special ed
Pupils 992 pupils (2009-10) [1]
Kindergarten 69
Grade 1 64
Grade 2 64
Grade 3 77
Grade 4 82
Grade 5 59
Grade 6 73
Grade 7 91
Grade 8 76
Grade 9 73
Grade 10 86
Grade 11 105
Grade 12 77
Other Enrollment projected to decline to 700 pupils in 2020[2]
Mascot Elk
Team name Elker
Budget $11,831,371 (2012-13)
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $8,410.94, HS - $10,778.18 [3]
Per pupils spending $11,807 in 2008
Per pupil Spending $12,432.91 in 2010
Website

The Ridgway Area School District is a diminutive, rural public school district serving parts of Elk County, Pennsylvania. It encompasses the communities of Ridgway, Ridgway Township, Spring Creek Township, and Horton Township. Ridgway Area School District encompasses approximately 181 square miles (470 km2). According to 2010 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 6,558. According to District officials, in school year 2009-10 the Ridgway Area School District provided basic educational services to 987 pupils through the employment of 86 teachers, 40 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 6 administrators. Ridgway Area School District received more than $6.5 million in state funding in school year 2009-10.

Students in grades K-5 attend the elementary school, those in grades 6-8 attend the middle school, and those in grades 9-12 attend the high school.

Governance[edit]

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.[4] 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 "C-" 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.[5]

Academic achievement[edit]

Ridgway Area School District was ranked 292nd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.[6] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and science.[7] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2011 - 302nd [8]
  • 2010 - 344th [9]
  • 2009 - 331st
  • 2008 - 249th
  • 2007 - 232nd out of 501 school districts.[10]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Ridgway Area School District ranked 254th. In 2011, the district was 169th. [11] 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."[12]

In 2010 and 2011, Ridgway Area School District achieved AYP status even though the Ridgway Area Middle School was in School Improvement status.[13] 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.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate was 88%.[14] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. High School's rate was 85.7% for 2010.[15]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High school[edit]

Ridgway Area High School is located at 1403 Hill Street, Ridgway. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 336 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 122 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 30 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 11:1.[20] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 15 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind, with 6 courses taught by teachers who had emergency certification.[21]

In 2010 and 2011, Ridgway Area High School achieved AYP status.[22]

11th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 65% on grade level (19% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[23]
  • 2010 - 77% (11% below basic). State - 66% [24]
  • 2009 - 62% (18% below basic). State - 65% [25]
  • 2008 - 56% (22% below basic). State - 65% [26]
  • 2007 - 67% (14% below basic). State - 65% [27]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 57% on grade level (18% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[28]
  • 2010 - 74% (10% below basic). State - 59% [29]
  • 2009 - 45% (23% below basic). State - 56%.[30]
  • 2008 - 52% (30% below basic). State - 56% [31]
  • 2007 - 55% (24% below basic). State - 53% [32]

11th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 26% on grade level (25% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[33]
  • 2010 - 41% (10% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 37% (11% below basic). State - 40% [34]
  • 2008 - 30% (10% below basic). State - 39% [35]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 16% of the Ridgway Area High School 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.[36] 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.[37] 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.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 58 Ridgway Area School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 464. The Math average score was 466. The Writing average score was 460.[38] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[39] 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.[40]

Graduation requirements[edit]

Ridgway Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 28 credits to graduate, including: Mathematics 4 credits, English 4 credits, social studies 4 credits, science 4 credits, Physical Education 2 credits at 0.5 per year, Health/wellness 1 credit and electives 8 credits. Students have access to Driver’s Training and a Careers course which meets the state's career development academic standard.[41] A student that is not on schedule to graduate because of failing core academic classes will not be promoted to the next grade. A student with a disability is awarded a high school diploma upon successful completion of school district requirements of graduation established by the successful completion of the goals and objectives of his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[42] During the ninth grade year Ridgway Area High School students are required to perform 5 hours of community service. In the sophomore year, must participate in a Job Shadow Experience and perform 15 hours of community service. In the junior year, the student must participate in a second Job Shadow Experience and perform 15 hours of community service. In the senior year, the student must write a report and give an oral presentation.[43]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating class of 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[44][45][46] In 2011, Pennsylvania high school students field tested the Algebra 1, Biology and English Lit exams. The statewide results were: Algebra 1 38% on grade level, Biology 35% on grade level and English Lit - 49% on grade level.[47] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Middle school[edit]

Ridgway Area Middle School is located at 1403 Hill Street, Ridgway. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 241 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 18.5 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[48] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 5 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind, while 2 courses were taught by teachers who had emergency certification.[49]

In 2011, Ridgway Area Middle School was in Making Progress: in School Improvement II AYP status due to chronic low student achievement.[50] In 2010, Ridgway Area Middle School declined to School Improvement II AYP status due to chronic low student achievement. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school was required to notify parents of the low student achievement and to offer a transfer to a school that is successful. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Education required the school's administration to write a School Improvement Plan to address the low student achievement. The school was required to refer parents to options for free tutoring to assist their child.[51]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 61% on grade level (16% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 62% (30% below basic). State – 57%
  • 2009 - 71% (13% below basic). State - 55%
  • 2008 - 57% (13% below basic). State - 52%
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Elementary school[edit]

Francis S Grandinetti Elementary School is located at 62 School Drive, Ridgway. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 415 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 220 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 31 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[58] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[59] In 2010 and 2011, Francis S Grandinetti Elementary School achieved AYP status even though the reading was below state wide reading skill levels.[60] In 2011, only 72% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In math, 83% of the students in 3rd through 5th grades were on grade level and 46% scored advanced. In 4th grade science, 95% of the pupils were on grade level.[61]

PSSA Results
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 90%, (0% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 78%, (9% below basic), State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 141 pupils or 14% of the district's pupils received Special Education services with 66.7% of identified students having specific learning disabilities.[63]

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.[64] 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.[65] The state requires each district to have a three year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[66] 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.[67]

The School District received a $591,687 supplement for special education services in 2010.[68] For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. 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.[69][70]

Gifted education[edit]

Ridgway Area School District Administration reported that 41 or 3.19% of its students were gifted in 2009.[71] By law, the 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.[72][73]

Wellness policy[edit]

Ridgway Area School Board established a district wellness policy in April 2006.[74] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006." Each building principal reports to the Superintendent regarding compliance in his/her school. Ridgway Area School Board also approved school district wide nutrition guidelines which limit foods that can be served a la carte, sold at student stores, provided by parents at class parties, and sold in fundraising by the schools or teams.[75]

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education, physical activity, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[76] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Ridgway Area School District offers a free school breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children. The program is funded with federal dollars through the USDA.[77]

Budget[edit]

Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). An annual operating budget is prepared by school district administrative officials. A uniform form is furnished by the PDE. Upon completion it is submitted to the board of school directors for approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on July 1. A copy of the budget is sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Under Pennsylvania’s Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of the Special Session of 2006, all school districts of the first class A, second class, third class and fourth class must adopt a preliminary budget proposal. The proposal must include estimated revenues and expenditures and the proposed tax rates. This proposed budget must be considered by the Board no later than 90 days prior to the date of the election immediately preceding the fiscal year. The preliminary budget proposal must also be printed and made available for public inspection at least 20 days prior to its adoption. The board of school directors may hold a public hearing on the budget, but are not required to do so. The board must give at least 10 days’ public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget according to Act 1 of 2006.[78]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Ridgway Area School District was $63,089.47 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $18,316.50 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $71,404.98.[79] 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.[80]

In 2009, the district reported employing 150 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $52,359 and a top salary of $105,029.[81] The teacher’s work day is 7 hours 25 minutes with 184 days in the contract year (180 days of pupil instruction). Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, prescription insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, vision insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days which accumulate up to 4 days, 10 paid sick days which accumulate, and other benefits. Teachers receive extra compensation at $25 per hour for duties beyond the regular school day/year. The district's early retirement plan includes payment of $500 per year worked in the district plus pay fro each unused sick day.[82]

Ridgway Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $778.76 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[83] Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[84]

Per pupil spending In 2008, the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,807 which ranked 293rd among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $12,432.91 [85] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[86] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[87] The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year year 2000-01.[88]

Reserves In 2008, Ridgway Area School District officials reported a balance of $550,000 in an unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $2,208,561. [89] In 2010, Ridgway Area Administration reported an increase to $827,050 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance with $1,000,000 in its unreserved-designated fund. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[90]

Audit In January 2012, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. The findings were reported to the School Board and the District’s administration.[91]

Ridgway Area School District is funded by a combination of: an occupation assessment tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[92] Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the district. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth.[93] In November 2012, the district residents will vote on whether to convert to a local earned income tax rather than the current occupation assessment tax.[94]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2012-13 school year, Ridgway Area School District received $4,898,756 in state basic education funding.[95] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 includes $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which is an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. The state also provides $100 million for the Accountability Block grant. Ridgway Area School District received $57,471 in ABG funds. The state also provided $544.4 million for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[96] This amount is a $21,823,000 increase (0.34%) over the 2011-2012 appropriations for Basic Education Funding, School Employees' Social Security, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation. Since taking office, Corbett’s first two budgets have restored more than $918 million in support of public schools, compensating for the $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars lost at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

In 2011-12, Ridgway Area School District received a $4,841,285.17 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[97][98] Additionally, Ridgway Area School District received $155,989 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $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.[99] 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.[100] In 2010, the district reported that 413 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[101]

In the 2010-11 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $5,171,329. Among the districts in Elk County, the highest increase went to Saint Marys Area School District which got a 6.02% increase. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[102] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where a district received at least the same amount as the year before, even where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.71% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $5,020,795. Among the districts in Elk County, the highest increase went to Saint Marys Area School District which got a 6.92%. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $4,841,285.17. 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.[103] The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal.[104] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 349 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[105]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

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, Ridgway Area School District applied for and received $155,989 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten beginning with the 2008-09 school year.[106][107]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

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. Ridgway Area School District was denied funding by the PDE in 2006-07. in 2007-08 the district received $60,456. The district did not apply to participate in 2008-09.[108] In Elk County the highest funding ($379,002) was awarded to Saint Marys Area School District. 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.

Education Assistance grant[edit]

The state's EAP funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds are available to eligible school districts and full-time career and technology centers (CTC) in which one or more schools have failed to meet at least one academic performance target, as provided for in Section 1512-C of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. In 2010-11, Ridgway Area School District did not apply for funding.[109]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $1,18 million in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[110][111] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[112] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised to use the funds for one-time expenditures like acquiring equipment, making repairs to buildings, training teachers to provide more effective instruction or purchasing books and software.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

Ridgway Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one half million in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[113] 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.[114] 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.[115][116][117]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2011-12 were set by the school board at 34.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills. Ridgway Area School District is one of 3 public school districts in Pennsylvania that levies the Oil/Gas/Mineral millage tax. 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.[118] 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.[119] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[120] In 2010, miscalculations by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts, including those that did not cross county borders.[121]

  • 2010-11 - 33.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills.[122]
  • 2009-10 - 32.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills.[123]
  • 2008-09 - 32.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills.[124]
  • 2007-08 - 32.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills.[125]
  • 2006-07 - 32.6000 mills. Oil/Gas/Mineral 70 mills.[126]

According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the total real estate taxes collected by all school districts in Pennsylvania rose from $6,474,133,936 in 1999-00 to $10,438,463,356 in 2008-09 and to $11,153,412,490 in 2011.[127] The average yearly property tax paid by Elk County residents amounts to about 2.89% of their yearly income. Elk County is ranked 668th of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[128]

Act 1 Adjusted Index[edit]

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.[129] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[130] Several 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.[131][132]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Ridgway Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[133]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Ridgway Area 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.[136]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Ridgway Area School Board applied for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index due to the teacher pension costs. Each year, the Ridgway Area 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.[137]

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.[138]

Ridgway Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[139] For the 2009-10 school budget, Ridgway Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[140] 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.[141]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2012, Rigdway Area School District approved homestead residents received $177.[142] In 2010, property tax relief for 2,024 approved residents of Ridgway Area School District was set at $174.[143] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for Ridgway Area School District was $176 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,007 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Elk County, the highest tax relief went to Johnsonburg Area School District which received $201 per homestead.[144] The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. Chester-Upland School District has consistently been the top recipient since the programs inception.[145] 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 Beaver County, 62% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[146]

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 people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This tax rebate can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief. In 2012, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Treasury reported issuing more than half a million property tax rebates totaling $238 million.[147] The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Property tax rebates are increased by an additional 50 percent for senior households in the state, so long as those households have incomes under $30,000 and pay more than 15% of their income in property taxes.[148]

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%).[149]

Extracurriculars[edit]

Ridgway area School District offers a variety of clubs, activities and an extensive and costly sports program. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.[150]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students residing in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, 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.[151]

Sports[edit]

The District funds:

Middle school sports

According to PIAA directory July 2012 [152]

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