York County school officials wary of budget deadline extension
WellSpan York Hospital begins COVID-19 coronavirus outdoor screening, Thursday, March 12, 2020. York Dispatch
A Montgomery County Democrat has introduced legislation in the state House that seeks to extend schools districts' budget deadlines, which are expected to be bludgeoned by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the bill could do more harm than good if passed, said one York County school district official.
Rep. Joe Ciresi on Monday introduced the legislation, which now sits in the chamber's Education Committee. The bill would authorize the Department of Education to extend the deadline for school districts' budgets beyond June 30.
The legislation, which has 26 bipartisan cosponsors, does not provide an exact date for a new deadline.
"In the best interests of our students, teachers and the community as a whole, we need to make sure that our school districts have the time to pass funded and vetted budgets that allow for public input and are inclusive of taxpayer voices," Ciresi said in a statement.
Ciresi argues that because schools haven't been able to hold regular public budget meetings and garner input from residents because of coronavirus mitigation efforts, the ability to formulate proper budgets is jeopardized.
The bill would sunset after this budgetary cycle.
At least one school district, though, voiced concerns about the bill that is garnering lawmaker support on both sides of the aisle.
Brent Kessler, businesses manager for Central York School District, said sudden change to the timeline could cause more problems than it solves, since districts have been preparing for the June 30 deadline.
That's because school districts have to pass a budget to set tax rates and send out tax bills, which account for 74% of the school district's revenue.
If the deadline were to be pushed back to Aug. 31, for example, it would leave schools without expected tax revenue and relying on reserves. In Central's case, the district would begin the upcoming school year with just $5.1 million in reserve funds.
"We would only be able to go a month or two," Kessler said. "We would have a severe cash flow concern."
That district intends to advance with its typical budget process.
York City School District also will continue as normal, according to spokesperson ShaiQuana Mitchell — although the district said it will "evaluate decisions" depending on the fate of the bill.
Other school districts, such as West York, wouldn't be impacted at all because they have already initiated the budget adoption process.
The coronavirus pandemic had already thrown a wrench in districts' budget processes because local taxes and revenue streams are expected to take a dive — potentially leading to tax hikes.
That impact could remain for years after the outbreak has waned.
As of mid-April, for example, York Suburban was facing a deficit of about $3.35 million next year, and without a tax increase, the district would deplete its fund balance by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
As of noon Tuesday, there were 793 confirmed coronavirus cases in York County. There had been 14 reported deaths linked to the virus in the county.
Statewide, cases reached 57,991 with 3,806 deaths.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.