Dallastown school board narrowly passes budget
The Dallastown Area school board voted Thursday 5-3 to approve a $102.2 million budget for the 2016-17 school year — a spending plan that includes a tax increase for district residents.
According to former meeting minutes, it is the first time residents have experienced a tax increase since 2011. The boost will put the millage rate at 22.93, a 0.67 increase over the former 22.26 millage rate in the 2015-16 school budget.
The $102.2 million expenditure total for this year's school budget is about a $4.4 million increase from the 2015-16 budget expenditures, which rested at $97.7 million.
Kenneth Potter Jr., president of the school board, explained that the Public School Employees' Retirement System, more popularly known as PSERS, was the reason for the disagreement during the meeting. The 2016-17 budget for PSERS is $14.5 million, a $2.2 million increase from the district's $12.3 million PSERS payment in the 2015-16 budget.
"Not everyone is happy with this budget," Potter said after the vote. "PSERS has really taken a bite out of our ability to do what we really want to do. Not a lot that can be done."
During the vote, three board members said "no" to the budget: Hillary Trout, Steven Bentzel and Michael Noll, who joined the board on a phone call because he was away on vacation. Five board members voted to pass the budget, effectively enacting it for the 2016-17 school year. One school board member, John Hartman, was absent from the meeting.
Trout declined to comment about the reasoning behind her vote, and Noll was unable to comment, as he was in London on vacation. Bentzel did not return requests for comment.
The budget has an expenditure total of $102.2 million with a revenue total of $100.1 million, leaving a $2.1 million gap. An anticipated $640,000 savings because of debt restructuring narrows that gap, with the tax increase making up the difference.
Dallastown Superintendent Ronald Dyer said in an interview that although no furloughs were included and no programs were cut, many programs had their individual budgets cut, and the district couldn't hire the additional teachers it needs.
The superintendent said the school board was conservative in the estimates of what the district will get from the state. More money could mean more opportunities to expand programs that had been scaled back, though Dyer said the board has not discussed what will be done with any extra money the district might get from the state.
The state's budget deadline is June 30, but an impasse last fiscal year lasted nearly nine months.
"We were conservative for the year we've just ended and even more conservative for next year," Dyer said. "But I do believe (lawmakers are) trying hard to bring something to the governor by the June 30 deadline. I really want to believe that."
The evening ended with several information items to update and present to the board. These included updates from the special education quarterly report, school based counseling and the council of PTOs' quarterly report.
All other action items were approved without dissent. The action items included the approval of proposed policies, approval of a one-year contact with School Express for school transportation, and the approval of bank depositories for 2016-17. All action items, and the entire agenda, can be viewed on the school's website.
The next school board meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28. All meetings take place in Dallastown's High School Theater Room.