The Area School District board of education met for a regular meeting after it reorganized for 2012. introduced Superintendent David Goodin, who went over some facts about the preliminary budget for 2012-2013.
Goodin started the presentation by explaining that the budget is required to be approved by Jan 25. However, due to the Presidential primary elections in April, the presentation must be given one month earlier than normal.
"The district is following the Act 1 timelines, and the purpose of tonight's meeting is to determine if the district will need to have a voter referendum on the ballot," Goodin explained. "The district is making a commitment to stay within the state index and allowable exceptions."
In 2011-2012, data showed that the school's revenue and expenses matched at about $123 million. However, currently, the 2012-2013 budget shows a $2.9 million difference, meaning the budget is not currently balanced.
With the budget not being balanced, the school can take additional funds from the Fund Balance Reserve and balance the budget. By doing so, the new revenue total is $130,262,214, which effectively balances the budget under state regulations.
The allowable state index is 1.7-percent. Goodin said if Spring-Ford applies to all of the exceptions that it is entitled to, the allowable tax increase would be 3.63-percent. The actual tax increase has yet to be decided. Below is a chart of comparisons of allowable tax increases by the state and what the actual tax increase Spring-Ford issued...Year
Tax Increase 2012/13 3.63% TBD 2011/12 4.8246% 3.23% 2010/11 9.62% 2.00% 2009/10 6.12% 3.95% 2008/09 7.71% 4.32% 2007/08 5.58% 4.27%
There are a number of exceptions the district can apply for from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, including: Special Education Expenditures of $821,388; as well as Retirement Contributions between 8.65-percent and 12.36-percent (totaling $1.2 million).
"The estimated funding [for Special Education] is projected to be the same as 2011/12," Goodin said. "There was no funding increase since 2009/10. It's been the same for the last three years. The overall program cost for 2012/13 is an estimated increase of 10.2-percent, or a $2.2 million increase. These costs continue to outpace the inflation rate due to high costs of PT, OPT, Speech and other related services as outlined by the student's Individualized Education Program."
As for expenses within the district, the biggest changes come in salaries, employee benefits, professional services and other financing.
Salaries and employee benefits each increase from 2011/12 to 2012/13 by about $2.1 million respectively. Other financing sees a $1.02 million increase. However, professional services is the only expenditure that sees a decrease, dropping by $207,644.
Goodin also pointed out that by outsourcing maintenance work through , the administration can move the line item from the 300 objects (ie. salary and benefits) to the 400 objects. The school board is still projecting $1 million in savings by eliminating 29 positions and using the Jani King service.
Overall, the administration wanted to stress the fiscal reality of the economy.
"The 2011/12 budget reflected significant budget reductions due to revenue shortfalls," said Goodin. "Adjustment in prior years to maintain fiscal reality of revenue losses due to the economy will continue with the 2012/13 budget. The 2011/12 major reductions were the result of state cuts of $2 million and federal support of two years of stimulus funding of $800,00 each year."
Goodin went on to say that the local economy is causing the total revenues received in the past to be short by $2.5 million per year. The 2011/12 budget reflected a $2.4 million decrease from the 2010/11 budget, even though "expenses in the past increased on average by $7 million."
In basic education subsidy, the administration is estimating the funding to be the same as last year. There were severe funding cuts of $2.1 million in state revenue in 2011/12. It was noted that The Commonwealth "Costing Out Study" showed Spring-Ford's adequacy funding to be underfunded by $10.5 million "when considering factors such as special education students, ESL, poverty students and geographic region."
It was also noted by Goodin that the major revenue source of the district is "based on assessment values and losses continue to be a threat to the fiscal climate of the school district, requiring a reevaluation of expenditures."
There are past and current assessment appeals ongoing with over 50 commercial properties. Most recently, a dispute with GlaxoSmithKline was settled, reflecting an annual loss of $1.6 million plus payments of $6.5 million in back taxes.
"In addition, Real Estate Transfers, Interim Real Estate Taxes, and Interest on investments continue to be sluggish," Goodin said.
Finally, although benefits are increasing by $2.1 million, the district actually saw a large decrease in the rate of health care claims. In 2010/11, the increases totaled 28.1-percent and in 2011/12, the increases totaled 18.7-percent. In 2012/13, the district "received a more favorable rate of 6.14-percent."
The budget must be finalized in June of 2012. Between now and then, administrators explained that the district will receive more definitive numbers on updated state revenue, local tax considerations, budgets for MCIU, the , alternative education and on-going district budget evaluations.
The budget was approved for advertisement of public inspection Monday night. At the Jan. 17 meeting, the board will vote to adopt the preliminary budget. The state deadline to adopt the proposed preliminary budget is Jan. 25 and the state deadline to file for exceptions with the Pennsylvania Department of Education is Jan. 30. A copy of Goodin's presentation will be on the website at some point today.
"As the year goes on, budget numbers become firmer," Goodin concluded. "There is no doubt that this district has done a good job with finances in the past. Other districts would love to deal with the numbers we have [in the current economy]."
DiBello noted the board would be working on the line items over the next few months.
"January through March should be interesting, because we'll get the government's budget and see what additional cuts are made," said DiBello.
Student Liaison Elizabeth Brady and Goodin gave regular presentations at the meeting, as well. Here is a list of highlights:
- Spring-Ford Rotary Club is participating in Adopt-a-Family on Dec. 14. The high school branch (Interact) is helping by wrapping presents and preparing them for distribution. Last year, close to $15,000 was raised for the cause by the Rotary Club, Interact, area churches and the SFDA.
- Several winter concerts coming up: Chorus on Dec. 16, Concert Band on Dec. 21.
- High School band went to Chicago over fall break. Band members reported having a great time and getting lots of sightseeing in.
- Quite a few seniors have started to get accepted into colleges and schools. Their acceptances are featured on a bulletin board outside of the Future Planning Center.
- Saltwater fish tank that the Class of 2011 donated is set to go in soon.
- Class of 2012 has recently voted to go on its class trip to New York City. The cost is $527 per person, covering expenses for transportation, lodging and activities. Activities include Empire State Building, Broadway or Mets vs. Phillies. The trip is for three days.
- On Dec. 15, the choral students will perform for the district court Chamber of Commerce.
- Midterms are coming up at the end of January.
- The administration is making strides at soliciting input from stakeholders. Goodin is setting up meetings with representatives from the support staff. The purpose being to hear out concerns and issues from those in support roles, as well as the district to discuss issues of concern.
- There are suggestion boxes in each building to check current operations for validity and usefulness and to make general improvements.
- The board is starting a Twitter account @SpringFordASD. Meetings, cancelations, district-wide events, delays, etc. will be tweeted out to followers.
- On Jan. 21, SNAP will present a Dancing With The Stars competition, performed by board members and administrators. Goodin said the event should be well worth the cost of the ticket.
- Goodin thanked Erwin Wenner (Spring-Ford Class of 1973) and the Meridian Bank for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Contribution of $2,500 to the school district.