Draft Dover Area school budget would boost taxes to cover high school project

Dover Area High School in Dover Township, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Dover Area School District's proposed  budget would increase taxes to help cover bond payments for its new high school, according to a March presentation.

Proposed expenditures of approximately $65.4 million were about $1.98 million more than revenue, according to March estimates, but about $1 million of that would be transferred to the capital projects fund to cover bond payments for the district's new high school.

The $65 million high school project was approved in 2018 — and that year another $1 million was  transferred into the fund to cover costs — leaving a projected deficit of $200,992 by the end of 2018-19. The board plans to cover both deficits with its general fund balance.

Last year, the district ended with a surplus of $270,999.

Residents in the district would see a tax increase of about 1.21%, or 0.27 mills — which amounts to $357,211 in revenue and a $32 increase on the average tax bill — in 2019-20 to help cover bond payments. The district increased taxes 2% this year.

More:Dover school board approves bids for $65 million high school project

Dover Area School District officially broke ground on a new high school Wednesday, to be located in the area of the current Intermediate School, Thursday, August 15, 2018.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Dover would bring in additional revenue to offset these costs next year through a one-time "funding holiday," which would be a gain of about $1 million.

The money would come from the Lincoln Benefit Trust, a consortium of districts in York County and the Lincoln Intermediate Unit region that pool their resources for medical benefits to get better rates, said district Business Manager Jennifer Benko.

She said the "holiday" involves the district not paying its medical benefits for a month or two to bring down its high fund balance built up from good claims experience.

Other expense drivers in the 2019-20 school year reflect growing social emotional needs and an increase in students with language barriers.

Through surveys and state and county data, the district is showing a  high percentage of lower-income students and students who have social-emotional issues at home, Benko said.

"There has definitely been an increase in the needs of the community as a whole," she said.

The proposed budget would address these needs through $60,000 in additional English as a Second Language (ESL) support through Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 and a $62,000 salary for a second social worker.

"We currently have two staff members that cover all six buildings, and with our increasing population it’s becoming more difficult to service our children adequately," said Assistant Superintendent Patricia Maloney about ESL studies.

The district would add about $15,000 for summer guidance hours to catch struggling students early and improve graduation rates, which Superintendent Tracy Krum said were not as good as they should be.

Tracy Krum, Superintendent of Schools at Dover Area School District.

"We need to put together a plan that triggers support for them immediately," Krum said.

Dover received low growth and achievement scores from the Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System this year, which Krum has said was because of misaligned curriculum standards resulting from recent leadership changes.

More:State report card: York City district excels in growth; Central York, Dover struggle

In next year's budget, the district would make several staff changes for minimal costs to improve instruction and consistency.

Dover also would add a second full-time school resource officer for $135,000 and a new in-house autistic support classroom for intermediate-level students. By going with in-house instruction over an intermediate unit, the district would save more than $95,000.

More:York County school districts question LIU costs, transparency

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday, April 23, on the preliminary budget, which would be available online for public review if approved. The board is slated to vote in May on the final budget.