MANDATA - Line Mountain School District officials need almost $1 million to fill in their 2014-15 operating budget.

After the school board unanimously approved the first proposed preliminary budget Tuesday night, business manager Phil Rapant said expenditures are expected to increase by $964,118 next school year.

Medical insurance will go up $419,875, salaries will increase by $263,039, retirement by $195,128, bond payments by $73,999 and Social Security by $12,077, he said.

In order to make up the difference, Rapant said the board can either cut expenses, take from the fund balance or raise taxes.

The board has opted to file for exceptions from the state in order to raise taxes above the 3 percent maximum allowed by law. The district did the same last year during the budget process, but board members ultimately decided not to raise property taxes and kept the millage at 70.

Without the exception, the board could raise the property tax rate a maximum of 2.1 mills, or $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed value. For a property assessed at $100,000, a property owner would pay an additional $210 annually.

Right now, revenue is projected at $17,480,762 and expenditures $18,444,879.

Rapant said the budget does not yet include any revenue increases from last year because the state will not announce funding levels until further into the year.

Next year's expenses for bonds could also drop if the district refinances its $8 million debt, which has a current interest rate of 4.25 percent, Rapant said.

Addition '99 percent done'

Josh Bower, project manager from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, also told the board the district's additions project was "99 percent done." Everything is installed; it's just a matter of ensuring it all works properly, he said.

The middle-high school's heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system was converted to geothermal. In a geothermal HVAC system, glycol - a coolant similar to antifreeze - is distributed in and out of wells through a series of pipes and cycled through the building in a closed loop to either heat or cool the rooms, depending on the need.

About 100 wells were drilled in the parking lot between the school and the stadium. A geothermal system exists at Trevorton Elementary, too, where the wells are underneath the playground.

Leck Kill and Dalmatia elementary schools were closed before the 2013-14 school year as part of an overall district consolidation plan. School buildings in Trevorton and Mandata were expanded to accommodate a realignment of the school district. Students in grades kindergarten through fourth are attending class in Trevorton, while fifth- and sixth-graders are attending class in the new addition at the middle-high school building.

The board also approved $41,692 in change orders for the project.

In other business, solicitor Rich Roberts recommended the board bid out the elementary school properties they closed in the spring in order to get the best response. The board will likely consider action at its Jan. 28 meeting.