The York City School District, placed in financial recovery by the state, is aiming to hold the line on taxes for the second year in a row.
But, whether the district will achieve that goal depends at least partially on the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations with the teachers union.
The district will not seek permission this year from the state Department of Education to raise taxes above its 3.4 percent tax cap.
The district's school board officially committed to that limit at a meeting Wednesday, which means the district's millage rate -- currently set at 33.74 mills -- could not increase to more than 34.88 mills.
Ultimately, the goal is to avoid any increase, said Richard Snodgrass, the district's business manager.
"I believe the taxes are high enough in the city," he said Wednesday. "There's a diminishing return when you keep raising taxes."
Snodgrass said he's actively working on the 2014-15 budget, due for approval by June 30.
But many pieces of the district's financial puzzle are not yet clear.
The district is in the midst of implementing its state-mandated financial recovery plan. Known as the internal-transformation model, the plan was proposed by union and administration leaders and approved by the state-appointed chief recovery officer, David Meckley.
That plan outlines "workforce savings" required to achieve the district's financial goals. It includes wage reductions between 5 and 15 percent, depending on an employee's job. During the next five years, teachers would see decreases of up to 11.9 percent, according to the plan.
However, the York City Education Association -- the formal name of the teachers union -- has not yet agreed to a new collective-bargaining agreement with the district. Negotiations began months ago.
Folks on both sides of the table are not permitted to speak publicly about the talks.
Reached by phone Tuesday, the union's president said a majority of union members must vote to approve a contract agreement proposed by the union's leadership. So far, no votes have been taken, Bruce Riek said.
Without the salary and benefit concessions reflected in the plan, the internal-transformation model won't work next year, Meckley said.
The alternative model identified in the recovery plan is partial or complete conversion of district schools to charter schools.
On Wednesday, Meckley said it's difficult to articulate what needs to happen -- and how soon it needs to happen -- in order for the district to avoid charter conversion.
But, he said, the longer it takes to reach an agreement with the union, the more likely that scenario becomes a possibility as early as September.
Riek said he's not sure if a deadline for a contract agreement -- real or perceived -- exists.
"There's a lot that I would love to say," he said.
-- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.