Accountants at the York City School District, deemed financially distressed by the state in 2012, finally have some good news to report.

In a presentation to the school board last week, the district's business manager said the district ended its 2012-13 fiscal year with a cumulative deficit of about $1.6 million.

That's a reduction of nearly $2 million compared to the $3.6 million end-of-year deficit 12 months earlier, Richard Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass attributed the improvement to a list of favorable factors.

For example, he said, the district collected about $680,000 in delinquent real-estate taxes beyond what was projected. Also, the district had budgeted $450,000 in anticipated revenue from real-estate transfer taxes, but collected $130,000 above that projection.

Health insurance and unemployment claims also cost the district considerably less than expected.

Snodgrass said his report is based on preliminary numbers from an audit that's not yet complete.

So far, things are looking good for the current fiscal year as well, Snodgrass said.

The district has cut its operating costs and is enjoying about $6.1 million in state funding more than its allocation the year before.

The downside: However, Snodgrass warned, the district is far from escaping its financial problems.

"It's encouraging, but it's no time to dance in the end zone," he said.

The district's "distressed" label paved the way for a state-appointed recovery officer, who is overseeing the district's implementation of its recovery plan this year.

The success of that plan depends on two major factors, Snodgrass said.

The district must attract charter students back to the district, he said.

"If we continue to lose students to the charter schools, there's no plan that's going to save us," Snodgrass said.

Secondly, the district needs salary and benefit concessions from the teachers' union, he said. As of this week, the union has not approved a new contract with the district.

"We now have to go through and make sure that the collective-bargaining agreements correspond with what the plan calls for," Snodgrass said. "It's going to take us a few years to re-establish ourselves so that we have financial stability."

-- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.