WEST CHESTER The West Chester Area School District passed a preliminary budget this week that includes a $10.6 million increase over the current year, due mostly to mandated expenses, according to the district.

The budget - which is available for public inspection until a vote May 28 - would result in about a $100 tax hike for the owner of a $190,000 home, the average assessed value in Chester County, the district said in a news release.

Officials said nearly 90 percent of the budget increase accounts for three items: $4.7 million in pension costs, salary and health-care benefits included in a recently settled teacher contract, and debt service costs.

The school board had previously accepted a preliminary budget that included a $14.9 million budget gap and would have resulted in a 5.5 percent tax increase, according to the release. Instead of moving forward with that budget, the board revised it to use $6.4 million from the reserve fund balance, resulting in a 2.9 percent tax millage increase, officials said.

"The board has been planning for large increases in retirement and health-care costs and established fund balances to help reduce the burden on our taxpayers," Board President Rick Swalm said. "This will be one of those years in which we will need to draw on those reserves to close the budget gap."

- Tricia L. Nadolny