The York City School District is entering its upcoming budget year in a predicament no other York County school district would be envious of, and yet entirely better than recent years.
The city schools face about a $10 million deficit heading into the 2013-14 school year, according to business manager Richard Snodgrass, with specifics expected to be discussed at next Wednesday's board meeting. The potential property tax increase could go up to 5.6 percent, Snodgrass told the school board at Monday's meeting. The state tax cap is 2.7 percent, but York City can use exceptions to go above that.
The York City School Board increased taxes 8.5 percent this year, up to 33.73 mills. A 5.6 percent increase would add $94 to the property tax bill of a $50,000 homeowner.
The past two years, York City schools entered the budget with nearly a $20 million deficit.
York City schools also have a $4 million deficit this school year, as charter school tuition payments are about $3.5 million above what was expected because of higher-than-predicted enrollment. In recent years, the district had to freeze spending, cut programs, and borrow from the state to meet its expenses in the face of an in-year deficit; Snodgrass said lines of credit should ensure the district avoids any payroll concerns, and that talks are ongoing as to how to shrink the deficit now.
For next year, the $10 million deficit could be cut in half by the state's simply repeating what it did last year - offering a $5.5 million funding boost to York City to offset otherwise flat basic education funding. Snodgrass said city schools can't be certain if the state will do the same next year.
Charter school tuition is expected to go up $3.5 million in 2013-14 above what's being paid this year, he said, adding to the budget crunch. And pension contributions, a thorn in the side of every district's budget, will go up to a 16.9 percent contribution rate next year, up from about 12.3 this year. That's an extra $500,000 expense, on top of increased salaries.
But Snodgrass said the district still is in the very early stages of putting together a budget, and much can change. A preliminary budget isn't expected to be adopted until late February.
In other news: York City is planning on expanding its science, technology, engineering and math program to the high school level. The program, which helps students get specialized courses in those topics, had been offered only in the middle school grades, but York City officials want to offer it at the high school this school year.
The garden that students and community leaders helped plant at William Penn Senior High School in the fall will be used as an outdoor classroom.
- Reach Andrew Shaw at email@example.com