The West York Area School District's preliminary budget shows a deficit of $1.5 million, despite incorporating savings of $2.2 million from upcoming teacher furloughs.
The West York school board will vote at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, to take the first step to file for tax exceptions by advertising the preliminary budget.
By advertising the preliminary budget, district Business Manager George Fike will be able to file for exceptions from the state for costs beyond the district's control. The district qualifies for exceptions to help offset the expense of rising pension and special-education costs.
Board member Robert Crouse, who is on the budget and finance committee, said filing for exceptions will only be a small measure, but will help the district decrease the deficit.
"It's not by any means a rescue or a bailout," Crouse said. "It's an assistance."
Fike said the $49.3 million budget will use the general fund balance to balance the deficit. If the state Department of Education grants the exceptions, that will just decrease the amount taken from the general fund.
Fike said when the district looked at using exceptions a few years ago, the value would have been about $220,000. Fike was unsure of the final amounts for this year.
To use the exceptions, the school district will have to raise property taxes to the full cap set by the state, and add millage for the exceptions on top of that.
The school district is approved to raise taxes by 2.2 percent for the 2014-2015 school year, which would be an increase of 0.46 mills, and $69 for a homeowner with a property valued at $150,000. That increase could grow if the district is approved for exceptions and if the board votes to use them.
Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said she and Fike will make a detailed budget report to the board next month. Advertising the preliminary budget is just the first step, and allows Fike to file paperwork for the exceptions that is due to the state in January.
Lonardi said the district has held off on budget cuts like teacher furloughs for as long as possible. But she said while some school districts have saved money through a hiring freeze when numerous teachers have retired, West York has not had the same number of teachers leave. Thus, the district has to make the cuts.
In a November interview, Lonardi said she expects to furlough about 10 professional staff at the elementary level, and about 10 at the secondary level. An additional 10 support staff members in the district will be laid off, Lonardi said. At a November board meeting, Lonardi said teachers could be notified in January if they are furloughed.
"It's absolutely heart-wrenching," Lonardi said.
The school board will next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the West York Area Middle School, 1700 Bannister St.