The South Western school board approved a proposed final budget last week that, if passed, would raise property taxes to the 2.5 percent increase allowed by the state.

The proposed tax increase equals 0.43 mills and an increase of $64.50 for a homeowner with a property worth $150,000. Even if that hike is approved, the district will still need to cover a gap of about $2.1 million, said Jeff Mummert, district business manager.

The $59.6 million budget won't cut any staff, and the district will keep the same services intact, Mummert said. The district might not buy additional instruments or replace some equipment, but beyond that the programs will stay the same, he said.

Mummert said he and the district have been "fairly conservative" in estimating money the district could receive from the state. For now, the budget doesn't include any increase in state funding.

"State revenues are falling," he said. "Do you have any reason to believe we're going to get more money with state revenues falling? I don't."

If the board passes the proposal as a final budget, it will use $780,000 from a fund specifically set aside to offset pension increases. The rest of the $2.1 million gap will be covered by the general fund. The pension funds were officially set aside in past years when projects showed the steep increases in pensions that are predicted for the next several years, Mummert said.

"The funds that we had put aside are now starting to be utilized to soften that blow," he added.

By using those saved funds, Mummert said taxpayers benefit because the district can stay within a tax cap and not have to apply for exceptions or other measures to balance the budget.

Mummert said the final budget will likely be voted on by the board at the May 28 meeting. Otherwise it will be on the agenda for June 11, he said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at