In an attempt to prepare for future pension payments, the Northeastern school board approved a final budget with a tax increase to the state cap in a 6-2 vote last week.
With the 2.8 percent tax hike in the final budget, property owners will see a tax increase of 0.69 mills, or $103.50 for a person with a home valued at $150,000.
That property tax amount will give the district a surplus of at least $75,000, said Brian Geller, the district's director of operations. But if predictions for rising costs for health care and pensions hold true, the district will need those funds in future years, he said.
"We continue to see budget forecasts looming in the future," he said.
Budget increases: Pension payments alone could increase by 33 percent in the next three to four years, Geller said. Those rose 21 percent this year. And because districts can't raise taxes in one year to cover that entire cost, the district needs to increase taxes over time to account for those expenses, he said.
The budget doesn't call for cuts in programs or teaching staff, although the board did vote in April to outsource the district's technology services.
That change, which starts in July, could mean up to 10 full-time district employees will be out of a job, Geller said. Those employees will be able to apply for jobs with Questeq, the contracted company, which has an agreement with the district for the next five years.
Next year's savings by outsourcing the technology will be minimal, Geller said, because Questeq employees will work year-round instead of for the term of the school year. But over five years, the district expects to save $175,000 with the change, Geller said.
Other items: The district also plans to hire two additional teachers to help with growing class sizes, with a budgeted amount of about $70,000 each. Those people will be placed in whichever grade level and building most need the help, said superintendent Shawn Minnich. Two full-time teachers also moved to part-time positions, according to a release from the school.
The budget does not include a state Ready to Learn block grant, which could give the district an extra $577,300 next year. But Geller said it's not included because the grant, proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett in February, is not likely to pass the Legislature. And if it does, Geller said he believes the money would need to go toward new programs, essentially making the line item "a wash."
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.