No tax increase for West York district in proposed budget

West York Area High School in West Manchester Township, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert

West York Area School District is proposing a budget with no tax increase for the 2019-20 school year.

Projected expenditures are about $62.9 million, with $58.6 million in revenue — leaving an estimated deficit of about $4.27 million for 2019-20 — but district Business Manager Sheri Schlemmer estimates that deficit would be reduced to about $1.6 million or $2 million at most.

The 2018-19 deficit was projected to come in near $4.36 million, but the year-to-date estimation is about $2.4 million  — meaning the district would about break even next year, Schlemmer said at a March meeting. 

About $1.9 million in savings came from staff departures and benefits associated with hiring about 25 new staff members in the 2018-19 school year.

Expenditures for the proposed 2019-20 budget increased about $1.89 million over this year's expenditures, but next year's projected revenue also increased — about $1.98 million. 

In the past two years, the district ended with a fund balance surplus, and it plans to have no tax increase for the second year in a row.

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"As a board, I think we're doing what we're supposed to be doing," said board Treasurer George Margetas, also praising Schlemmer for finding savings.

Some cost drivers for the 2019-20 budget include $135,370 for technology updates, $200,000 for an administration office rental and about $1.89 million in contract salary and benefit increases.

The district plans to spend $600,000 for two new Laurel Life classrooms — which would replace student placement in intermediate units — and mandated cyber cost increases.

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Among proposed new hires are a social worker, five full-time aides to increase quality of service and three dean behavior specialists — one in each elementary building.

But bringing special education classrooms back to the district would offset costs to new personnel with a $397,929 reduction to the special education budget.

A point of contention among the board was $107,315, including benefits, to hire a safety and security coordinator to manage the state's Act 44 requirements. The position could be grant-funded, but the district would have to pay each year after the grant runs out.

Board member Douglas Hoover questioned whether other districts that offer the same position are bigger, and Schlemmer said it’s on the radar for many districts, including Southern York and York Suburban school districts, which are about West York's size.

"Maintaining is a lot easier than getting it from where we are to where we want it to be," said board President Todd Gettys, noting that it's important to establish the position first and that it might not have to be full time in the future.

It's also important to designate one person to cover those duties so that it doesn't prevent the district from giving proper attention to more pressing issues, such as mental health and behavior, added board member Lynn Kohler.

"We all identified discipline and behavior issues and mental health issues as our No. 1 issue in this district, right?" he said.

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An additional pupil services assistant superintendent was hired this year to handle behavior and discipline in K-12, but a good part of school safety involves the Act 44 requirements, which "none of us have been trained for," said Superintendent Todd Davies.

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday, April 16, on the final budget.