York Suburban seeks solutions for $2 million budget gap
People living in the York Suburban School District could see another hike in their property taxes this year.
The administration held a public meeting Monday night to update the board and community members on the state of the district's budget. Superintendent Shelly Merkle presented on the district as a whole, while finance director Corrine Mason gave a presentation about the current budget and what might be in store for the 2017-18 school budget.
The budget: Mason explained what goes into making a budget, from the revenue side and the expenditure side. The current school budget is at $53,102,003, and she showed a projected budget for the 2017-18 school year that is $53,450,403.
At this point, there is a $2.4 million gap in the 2017-18 budget between anticipated revenue and anticipated expenditures.
Mason said a number of things contribute to the gap: local real estate value has decreased, pension contributions will continue to increase and the district hopes to add five positions to help implement a full-day kindergarten program for 2017-18.
Although Mason said the numbers are preliminary and administrators will continue to look for ways to close the gap, she said after the presentation that raising taxes might be part of the solution.
During the presentation, she suggested a 2.5 percent tax increase, the state-assigned cap for the district in the coming fiscal year. The district can't exceed that limit without a special exemption from the state. For a home valued at $155,000, the average for York Suburban, a 2.5 percent increase would add $82 to the homeowner's tax bill.
As of the 2015-16 school year, the latest year Mason provided numbers for, York Suburban's 21.89 mill tax rate falls in the middle of the York County school districts. The lowest in the county is Northern York, at 16 mills, and the highest is York City, at 33.74 mills.
There are other options, Mason said. The district can consider applying for a retirement exception so it wouldn't have to contribute as much to the employee retirement; use some of the district's unassigned fund balance — comparable to a savings account, which, as Merkle pointed out in her presentation, is in good standing and has been built up over the past several years; and look at a capital reserve fund transfer. The capital reserve fund is typically money set aside for construction projects, but the district could transfer from that account to help close the gap.
Mason said a combination of those solutions and others could be used. Additionally, the district is going to look at possible cuts to transportation costs, decreasing the number of students in the district who attend charter schools — the tuition for which is covered by the district — and the cost of contracted services.
The district: Merkle said the state of the district as a whole was very strong. She pointed to high student achievement, evidenced by higher Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam and Keystone Exam scores as well as the state and federal recognition the school district received in 2016.
She also said the graduation rate — which is at 94.5 percent, according to Pennsylvania School Performance Profile information — continues to be high, and students who do graduate go on to successful things, be that a two- or four-year college, the military, a trade school or the workforce.
Meanwhile, facility projects that were on hold three years ago started to be completed this past year, including the renovation of the middle school cafeteria and the instillation of secure entrances at each school in the district.
"The state of York Suburban is strong," Merkle said. "I have every confidence that, working together, we can make it stronger."