Mercer Area School District


Mercer Area School District
Mercer Area School District
Address
545 West Butler St.
Mercer, Pennsylvania, Mercer, 16137
United States
Information
School board 9 elected members
Superintendent Dr. William D. Gathers, Ed.D
Specialist Ronald R. Rowe Jr., Assistant Superintendent
School number 724-622-5100
Administrator Michelle Dietrich, Coordinator of Special Education
Principal Dr. Hendley Hoge, HS
Principal Timothy J. Dadich, MS
Principal Mrs. Claudia J. Sigmund, ES
Vice principal Mrs. Michelle Dietrich, ES
Grades K-12
Kindergarten 85
Grade 1 84
Grade 2 94
Grade 3 119
Grade 4 94
Grade 5 93
Grade 6 110
Grade 7 121
Grade 8 121
Grade 9 125
Grade 10 125
Grade 11 107
Grade 12 107
Other Enrollment projected to decline to 980 pupils by 2020. [1]
Mascot mustang
Website

The Mercer Area School District is a small, suburban, public school district serving parts of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, USA. Its namesake and central locality is the borough of Mercer; other communities in the district include Jefferson Township, Coolspring Township, Findley Township and East Lackawannock Township. The district encompasses approximately 91 square miles (240 km2). According to 2002 local census data, it serves a resident population of 11,000. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $16,996, while the median family income was $44,043. [2] Per District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Mercer Area School District provided basic educational services to 1,395 pupils through the employment of 101 teachers, 20 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 7 administrators. Mercer Area School District received more than $7.6 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

The district operates one elementary school, one middle school and one high school.

Contents

Governance

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. [3] 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 "F" 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. [4]

Academic achievement

In 2011, the Mercer Area School District ranked 126th out of 498 Pennsylvania districts. The ranking is based on five years of student academic achievement as demonstrated by PSSAs results in reading, writing, math and three years of science. [5]

  • 2010 - 120th [6]
  • 2009 - 123rd
  • 2008 - 162nd
  • 2007 - 179th out of 501 districts [7]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of the Mercer Area School District was in the 73rd percentile of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts. Scale (0-99; 100 is state best) [8]

Graduation rate

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4 year cohort graduation rate. Mercer Area School District's rate was 94% for 2010.[9]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

Graduation requirements

The Mercer Area School Board has determined that a high school student must earn 24.5 credits in order to graduate, including: English 4 credits, Social Studies 4 credits, Mathematics 3 credits, Science 3 credits, Physical Education 1.2 credits, Health 0.8 credit, Humanities/Arts 1 credit, Computer Application/Technology—1 credit, Family/Consumer Science—.5 credit and 6 elective credits. [14] Students may not have more than 1.5 credits of failure on their transcripts at graduation.

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. [15] At Mercer high School the project includes 20 hours of service learning, attendance at a governmental meeting, a thank you letter, and a final interview with a professional committee to review the students efforts.

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes 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 count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[16]

High School

The high school achieved AYP status in both 2099 and 2010. [17]

11th Grade Reading

  • 2010 - 71% on grade level (15% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 66% of 11th graders are on grade level.[18]
  • 2009 - 76% (10% below basic), State - 65% [19]
  • 2008 - 67% (8% below basic), State - 65% [20]
  • 2007 - 66% (16% below basic), State - 65% [21]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2010 - 61%, on grade level (23% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level. [22]
  • 2009 - 68% (15% below basic). State - 55%.
  • 2008 - 60% (22% below basic), State - 56%
  • 2007 - 57% (22% below basic), State - 53%

11th Grade Science:

  • 2010 - 45% on grade level (11% below basic). State - 39% of 11th graders were on grade level.
  • 2009 - 42% (12% below basic). State - 40% [23]
  • 2008 - 38% (13% below basic), State - 39%

College Remediation: According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 9% of Mercer 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.[24] 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. [25] 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.

Dual enrollment

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 both 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.[26] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions. [27] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[28]

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $2,311 for the program.[29] For 2011-12, the Dallas Hartman Dual Enrollment Education Scholarship is available for any Junior or Senior level high school in Mercer County. The student must work off the scholarship through pre-approved community service activities valued at $15.00 per hour. Community service project hours must be completed prior to the start of the college class. [30]

Challenge Program

The Challenge Program, Inc. offers $250.00 cash incentives to Mercer Area High School juniors, and seniors who excel in the categories of: Academic Improvement, Attendance, Community Service and Academic Excellence. The program partners with businesses to motivate students both in and out of the classroom by encouraging good habits in students that will last throughout their education and into their future careers. For the 2010-2011 school year, the top 10% of students in each of the categories are eligible to win $250.00. [31]

Mercer Middle School

The school achieved AYP status in 2009 and 2010. The attendance rate was 95% in both years. [32]

8th Grade Reading

  • 2010 - 90% on grade level (3% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81% of 8th graders on grade level. [33]
  • 2009 - 89% (7% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 89% (6% below basic), State - 78% [34]
  • 2007 - 74% (11% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2010 - 82% on grade level (3% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 75% of 8th graders are on grade level.[35]
  • 2009 - 73% (7% below basic), State - 71% [36]
  • 2008 - 85% (8% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 68% (15% below basic), State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2010 - 62% on grade level (18% below basic). State - 57% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2009 - 71% (13% below basic), State - 55% [37]
  • 2008 - 70%, State - 52% [38]

7th Grade Reading

  • 2010 - 72% on grade level (12% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 73% of 7th graders on grade level.
  • 2009 - 74% (9% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2008 - 78% (8% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 73% (11% below basic), State - 67%

7th Grade Math:

  • 2010 - 73% on grade level (13% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 77% of 7th graders are on grade level.
  • 2009 - 76% (7% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2008 - 76% (7% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2007 - 71% (10% below basic), State - 67%

Elementary School

Mercer Area Elementary School achieved AYP status in 2009 and 2010. [39] The attendance rate was 95% in both years. [40]

6th Grade Reading:

  • 2010 - 83% on grade level (6% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 68% of 6th graders are on grade level. [41]
  • 2009 - 73% (12% below basic), State - 67%

6th Grade Math:

  • 2010 - 85% on grade level (7% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 78% of 6th graders are on grade level.
  • 2009 - 76% (8% below basic), State - 75%

5th Grade Reading:

  • 2010 - 72% on grade level (15% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 64% of 5th graders are on grade level.
  • 2009 - 78% (8% below basic), State - 64%

5th Grade Math:

  • 2010 - 88% on grade level (4% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 74% of 5th graders are on grade level.
  • 2009 - 84% (4% below basic), State - 73%
4th Grade Reading;
  • 2010 - 79% (11% below basic), State - 73%
  • 2009 - 83% (9% below basic), State - 72%
4th Grade Math;
  • 2010 - 97% (3% below basic), State - 84%
  • 2009 - 94% (5% below basic), State - 81%
4th Grade Science;
  • 2010 - 94%, (2% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 94%, (0% below basic), State - 83%
3rd Grade Reading;
  • 2010 - 74%, (16% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2009 - 84%, (9% below basic), State - 77%
3rd Grade Math;
  • 2010 - 84%, (4% below basic), State - 84%
  • 2009 - 87%, (3% below basic), State - 81%

Special Education

In December 2009, the district administration reported that 242 pupils or 17.8% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. [42] [43]

In compliance with state and federal laws, 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. [44] To identify students who may be eligible for special education, 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 Coordinator of Special Services.[45]

Fro the 2010-11 school year, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving 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. [46]

Mercer Area School District received a $802,657 supplement for special education services in 2010.[47]

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. [48]

Parents of students who receive special education or gifted services have access to MIU IV's Local Task Force which meets regularly to advocate on behalf of all students receiving special education services to ensure that such students receive a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment.

Gifted Education

The District Administration reported that 9 or 0.07% of its students were gifted in 2009. [49] 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. [50] The gifted education at Mercer Area School District focuses on: enrichment, acceleration and individualization, in which instruction is matched specifically to the student’s achievement, abilities and interests.[51]

Bullying policy and school safety

In 2010, the administration reported there were no reported episodes of bullying in the district. There were 10 incidents of disorderly conduct and five students were placed in Alternative Education. [52] [53]

Mercer Area School Board prohibits bullying by district students and faculty. The policy defines bullying and cyberbullying. The Board directs that complaints of bullying shall be investigated promptly, and corrective action shall be taken when allegations are verified. No reprisals or retaliation on students may occur as a result of good faith reports of bullying. [54] The board expects staff members to be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of bullying. The district's web site provides a mechanism to report bullying online. [55] 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.[56] 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. [57]

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.[58]

Enrollment and Consolidation

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are fewer than 1361 students enrolled in Mercer Area SD, K-12, in 2010. There were 100 students in the Class of 2010. The district's class of 2009 had 112 students. Enrollment in the Mercer Area School District is projected, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to continue to decline to 990 pupils K-12 total enrollment, by 2020 with the sharpest decline across the elementary grades (a decline of over 20 students per grade). [59] In 2006, the enrollment was 1456 pupils K-12th grade.

A Standard and Poors study found that an optimal school district size, to conserve administrative costs, was at least 3000 pupils. [60] Consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings for people in both communities. [61] According to a proposal made in 2009, by Governor Edward G. Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to substantially reduce property taxes. [62] Consolidation of two districts' central administrations into one would not require the closing of any local schools.

In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district, would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion dollars without forcing the consolidation of any school buildings. [63] The study noted that while the best school districts spent 4% of the annual budget on administration, others spend over 15% on administration. [64]

More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania have been experiencing significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater). [65]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the United States. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity. [66] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[67]

Budget

In 2007, the Mercer Area School District employed 100 teachers working 180 days of pupil instruction. The average teacher salary in the district was $48,917. [68] 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.[69]

In 2008, per pupil spending at Mercer Area School District was $10,590 for each student. This ranked 431st among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.[70] Mercer Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $753 per pupil. This is ranked 250th among in the 500 school districts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. [71]

In 2008, the Mercer Area School District reported an unreserved designated fund balance of $841,707 and a unreserved-undesignated fund balance of $840,480. [72]

In 2009, the district employed 111 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $50,298 for 185 days worked. The beginning salary was $39,693, while the highest salary was $104,676. [73] Teachers work an 7 hour 30 minutes day, with one planning period and a paid 30 minute lunch included. Additionally, the teachers receive: a defined benefit pension, health insurance (teachers contribute $5 to $25 per month), life insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 2 paid emergency days, 10 paid sick days which accumulate, 3 days bereavement and many other benefits. The district offers an extensive retirement/longevity package which includes payment for unused sick days and a retirement bonus of $17,000 to $30,000. Teachers, who act as mentors for new employees, receive additional pay. Teachers hired before January 1, 1994 receive an annual longevity bonus in addition to raises and step increases. The union receives 5 paid days to conduct union business at the taxpayer's expense. [74] According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[75][76]

For the 2011-12 school year a serious budget challenge lead to staffing changes and a salary freeze for all employees. Five teachers and two principals ( both elementary and high school) took early retirement. Teaching positions were eliminated through retirements including: health and physical fitness, secondary German, elementary teacher, Title I secondary math, elementary guidance and high school alternative learning center supervisor.

In May 2011, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district and school board. Multiple serious findings were reported to the school board and administration. The auditors noted violations on the part of the school board including a failure to comply with Public School Code and Sunshine Act .[77]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local tax on income, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants have provided an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of wealth. [78]

State basic education funding

In 2011-12, the district will receive $5,130,855 in state Basic Education Funding. [79] [80] Additionally, the district will receive $86,127 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.[81]

In 2010, the district reported that 456 pupils received a free or reduced lunch due to their family meeting the federal poverty level.

For the 2010-11 budget year the Mercer Area School District received a 5.38% increase in state basic education funding for a total of $5,607,542. Greenville Area School District received the highest increase in Mercer County at 7.54%. One hundred fifty school districts in Pennsylvania received the 2% base increase for budget year 2010-11. The highest increase in the state was awarded to Kennett Consolidated School District of Chester County which was given a 23.65% increase in state basic education funding. [82]

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.71% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $5,321,397. Three county school districts received increases of over 6% in Basic Education Funding in 2009-10. Sharon City School District received an 7.59% increase which was the highest in Mercer County. In Pennsylvania, 15 school districts received Basic Education Funding increases in excess of 10% in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding. The state's Basic Education Funding to the Mercer Area School District in 2008-09 was $4,976,375.29. [83] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year. [84]

In 2008, the district reported that 366 pupils received a free or reduced lunch due to their family meeting the federal poverty level.

Accountability Block Grant

The state provides additional education funding to schools in the form of Accountability Block Grants. The use of these funds is strictly focused on specific state approved uses designed to improve student academic achievement. Mercer Area School District uses its $233,770 to fund reduce class size K-3rd, to pay teachers to write new courses and lessons and to pay for teacher training to improve instruction. These annual funds are in addition to the state's basic education funding. [85] Schools Districts apply each year for Accountability Block Grants. [86] In 2009-10, the state provided $271.4 million dollars in Accountability Block grants $199.5 million went to providing all day kindergartens. [87]

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, Mathematics) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Mercer Area School District did not apply in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $138,389 in funding. For the 2008-09, school year the district received a final $45,413 for a total funding of $183,802. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards. [88]

Federal stimulus grant

The Mercer Area School District received $1,013,900 in ARRA - Federal stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low income students. This funding includes $273,200 for Title 1-A programs, $1,088,200 for construction and $337,800 for IDEA programs.[89] This extra federal funding was for the 2009-10 and the 2010-2011 school years.

Race to the Top grant

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district up to million additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement. [90] Several Mercer County school districts applied for funding. [91] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[92] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[93] 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. [94]

Common Cents state initiative

Mercer Area School District School Board chose 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.[95] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes. The report found multiple opportunities for savings.

Real Estate Taxes

In 2011, the Mercer Area School Board set the property taxes rate at 61.0000 mills for the 2011-12 school year. [96] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. 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. 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. 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. [97]

  • 2010-11 - 61.000 mills. [98]
  • 2009-10 - 61.000 mills. [99]
  • 2008-09 - 59.500 mills. [100]
  • 2007-08 - 56.900 mills. [101]

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 permitted to raise taxes above that index, unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the Pennsylvania 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.[102] With the 2011 state education budget, the General Assembly voted to end most of the Act 1 exceptions leaving only special education costs and pension costs. The cost of construction projects will go to the voters for approval via ballot referendum. [103]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Mercer Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[104]

  • 2006-07 - 5.3%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.6%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 5.9%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.6%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.0%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.9%, Base 1.4%

For the 2011-12 school year, the Mercer Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year the Mercer 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 publisher each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. [105]

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. [106]

Mercer Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009-10 or in 2010-11.[107] [108] 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. [109]

Property tax relief

In 2011, property tax relief for 2,742 approved residents of Mercer Area School District was set at $148.[110] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Mercer Area School District was $157 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,577 property owners applied for the tax relief. [111] 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 and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. [112]

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 individuals who have income substantially 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. [113]

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%).[114]

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 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.[115]

Extracurriculars

The district provides an extensive number of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is determined via school board policies. [116] The Board has adopted the PIM Code of Ethics as rules governing the conduct of schools, the coach, officials, athletic directors, principals, and the public. According to the PIAA, the district offers 8 boys sports and six girl sports. [117]

References

  1. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (January 2009). "Mercer Area School District Enrollment and Projections,". http://www.pde.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/enrollment/7407/7_07_enrollment_projections_by_sd_revised_8_30_07/525012. 
  2. ^ American Fact Finder, US Census Bureau, 2009
  3. ^ Pennsylvania General Assembly. "Pennsylvania Public School Code Governance 2010 - Title-22". http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/022toc.html. 
  4. ^ The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. "The Pennsylvania Project". http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Pennsylvania_school_districts. Retrieved July 2011. 
  5. ^ Pittsburgh Business Times (April 2, 2011). "Statewide Honor Roll Rankings Information,". http://www2.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/events/pennsylvania_schools/statewiderank.html. 
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  7. ^ Pittsburgh Business Times (2007). "Three of top school districts in state hail from Allegheny County". http://pittsburgh.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2007/05/21/daily24.html. 
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