Central York would max tax hike in draft school budget

Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Central York School District has a maximum tax increase in its proposed 2019-20 budget for the second year in a row to offset debt, even after carving out about $1 million in expenses.

Expenditures in the draft budget are about $93.3 million — an increase of about $4.18 million over 2018-19 expenses — as of the district's April 3 budget workshop, but revenue also increased about $4 million, including a tax increase.

The district would see about $1.66 million in additional tax revenue — an average increase of $96.10 on homeowner bills.

All told, that's about $1.8 million in additional revenue and an $830,824 reduction in expenses since the board's December budget review, which means the district faces a deficit of $167,360 versus about $2.8 million — which it plans to cover with Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) reserves. 

An increase to the district's Act 1 adjusted tax index of 2.9% equates to a 0.58 millage jump to 20.51. The district raised taxes 3% — also up to that year's adjusted index — in 2018.

District Business Manager Brent Kessler said the board could consider the option of a lower tax increase in exchange for using more PSERS reserves.

“I want to raise taxes somewhere between not at all and as little as possible,” said board Vice President Gregory Lewis.

Central has a fixed debt service of $8 million per year, with four years remaining after this year. The plan is to raise taxes between an average of 2% and 3% each year, but that percentage could be reduced depending on other revenue increases, Kessler said. 

More:Central York board struggles with $2M-plus budget deficit

More:Central York debt could curb program needs, raise taxes for years to come

PSERS reserves would also cover an 2018-19 year-end deficit of just under $800,000 from about $1.1 million in salary increases from union contract negotiations. The district now has a projected surplus of $4,528.

Expense drivers for the 2019-20 budget include $289,454 in salaries for six new positions, a PSERS retirement increase of about $1.1 million, $240,600 for special education services and placements and a transportation increase of $616,842.

The district would  see $751,694 in health insurance savings to offset these costs.

Kessler said in the new contract with Reliance Student Transportation — passed earlier this year — rates are still competitive with other districts in York County, but Central will no longer be able to benefit from its previous grandfathered rates.

More:Central York district considers switch to West York bus company

Ryan Billet, assistant to the superintendent for administration, said the district   decided to use Reliance for 38 vans instead of using Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 because it’s more cost effective to pay per van versus per student.

Some notable changes since the December budget review include $502,000 in savings from taking back LIU classrooms. Additional spending includes $114,376 for a director of school safety, $102,071 for a third social worker and $105,000 for charter and cyber charter cost increases.

More:York County school districts question LIU costs, transparency

"The needs are real," said Superintendent Michael Snell, citing an extensive base for mental health and trauma issues and adding that the district used to have a third social worker years ago.

Dr. Michael Snell, Superintendent of the Central York Area School District, has been selected as the 2018 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year.  submitted photo

Snell said he received a lot of requests for both another counselor and social worker, but the administrative team, when given the choice, went for the social worker.

Central has five full-time counselors at the high school, two at the middle school and one in each of the K-3 buildings.

There was some argument over the necessity of a $500,000 capital reserve transfer. Board member Michael Wagner asked if the amount could be reduced to only what’s necessary, and board Treasurer Jane Johnson agreed.

“I’m not waiting for things to fall apart,” she said, but suggested reducing the number rather than cushioning the pockets of the district while taking from the taxpayers.

There will be a town meeting Tuesday April 23, ahead of a May 13 meeting to approve the preliminary budget and a June 17 meeting to adopt the final budget.