West York school board eyeing no tax increase in budget

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
  • The district is aiming for a zero tax increase for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
  • The move is in line with what board president Todd Gettys called for in the last budget.
  • New district superintendent Todd Davies said he is in favor of the budget plan.

With a reorganized school board and new district superintendent, the West York Area School District is planning to provide tax relief for residents.

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The district is eyeing no tax increase for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to business manager Sheri Schlemmer.

The West York school board unanimously approved a resolution Dec. 19 to not raise property taxes above the 3.1 percent increase assigned by the Department of Education.

During a finance meeting Dec. 12, in lieu of a preliminary budget presentation, Schlemmer presented the board with information on estimated figures for the 2018-19 budget.

Early figures estimate expenditures at $60.2 million and revenues at $55.7 million, leaving a budget deficit of about $4.5 million.

The district would need to dip into its unassigned fund balance to cover any deficit amount and not increase taxes, according to Schlemmer.

Expected revenue increases in basic education and special education funding as well as increases in the district’s transportation subsidy are the reason administrators are proposing no tax increase.

Overbudgeted: Schlemmer said it appears the district overbudgeted on several items for 2017-18 based on the final numbers from the state budget passed in October, giving them extra money to use for the new budget.

The district budgeted approximately $823,000 more than it needed in basic education and about $214,000 in special education. In addition, the district is expected to receive about $1 million in school construction reimbursements from the state.

Just that cumulative savings of $2 million can close the budget gap by about 45 percent.

Current fund balance figures are unclear as an independent audit is being finalized and due for release in January, according to Schlemmer.

However, according to its most recent final budget, the district will have an estimated $4.5 million in its fund balance by the end of the current fiscal year in June.

Board policy states the board should aim to have an unassigned fund balance "no less than 5 percent and no more than 8 percent of budgeted expenditures."

The 2017-18 estimated ending unassigned fund balance is 7.9 percent of budgeted expenditures.

Last year: In May, the West York school board passed a budget 6-3 that increased property taxes by its maximum allowable amount assigned by the Department of Education — 3.2 percent.

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Board member Todd Gettys was among the fiercest critics of the increase.

“I’m not in favor of unbalanced budgets, but tax increases are (becoming) synonymous with the West York way,” he said in May, “and that can’t continue.”

West York Superintendent Dr. Emilie Lonardi gives an update on her district during a press conference regarding the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the School District for the City of York Administrative Building in York City, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Former district Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said she wanted to continue seeing tax increases for up to three more years to achieve a balanced budget without resorting to taking money from the district's fund balance.

It appears the new board and administration are choosing a different path.

Gettys, then vice president, is now president of the West York school board and said he is excited about the “good news” coming in the way of tax relief.

Todd Davies was approved unanimously by the West York school board in a special meeting Monday night.

New district Superintendent Todd Davies stated similar sentiments.

“I’m excited about being on a zero budget on my first week on the job,” said Davies, who formally started leading the district on Dec. 1. “So thank you for that.”

Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez at jgonzalez@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @EducationYD.