Avon Grove School Board approves proposed final budget of $84.7 million
● By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School Board voted to approve a proposed final budget of $84.7 million at the April 23 meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese and business administrator Daniel Carsley made a presentation about the budget, updating the community about the spending plan as it has evolved over the last few months.
Carsley said that the $84,794, 292 total budget includes spending increases of about $3.1 million over the current year. Nearly half of that increase—approximately $1,485,000—can be attributed to the state-mandated increase in the district’s contribution to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) fund.
As of right now, a 2.4 percent tax increase would be needed to balance the budget. The millage rate would increase by .660 mills, from 27.499 mills to 28.157 mills.
Even with the tax increase, the district must dip into its fund balance for about $2.9 million to balance the budget.
Carsley said that if the district does use $2.9 million from the fund balance, that would leave an unassigned fund balance of $16,454,855, with more than $7 million still in reserve for increases in PSERS costs in the next few years.
The impact of a 2.4 percent tax increase would equate to about a $149 increase to the tax bill for the owner of a property that has an assessed value of $225,000.
The overarching goal of the spending plan, Marchese said, is to boost the performance of students, and to increase their learning opportunities for all students.
“This budget is designed to support student achievement,” Marchese said. He outlined some of the initiatives that are funded in the budget. The 2015-2016 spending plan includes funding for the Summer Curriculum Development Institute, as well as curriculum materials for the secondary mathematics program. There is funding for replacing everything from outdated computers to music instruments.
Marchese said that the kindergarten staff is being restructured so that the kindergarten teachers will now be full-time and will teach in the morning and afternoon. The district is also looking to restore some of the assistant athletic coaching positions that were eliminated several years ago because of budget restrictions.
Following the presentation by Marchese and Carsley, the board approved the proposed final budget. The budget is now available for public inspection. The school board is expected to adopt a final budget on June 11. Marchese emphasized that there could be changes in the spending plan between now and the time of final adoption.
In other business at the meeting, school board member Edward Farina reported that the district received one proposal from a company interested in buying the district’s wastewater treatment plant. This was in response to the district’s formal request for proposals. The district will now enter into discussions with the company to determine if the wastewater treatment plant could, in fact, be sold off.
Farina said that the Facilities Committee also decided to open up the high school track to the community during after-school hours. The track will be open during weekdays, only during those daylight hours when school isn’t in session and when the track isn’t being used for school events.
Ken Phillips from RBC Capital Markets, LLC, and John Frey, from the PFM Group, made a presentation about a bond refunding opportunity that the district is reconsidering.
The district has refinanced portions of its existing debt seven times over the last five years, and has saved about $2 million in debt service payments as a result. The district will once again be able to lock in a lower interest rate on a bond issue and could see about $87,000 in savings on debt service payments next year if it pursues this refinancing opportunity. The exact amount won’t be known until the district actually secures the refinancing at a specific rate.
The Avon Grove School Board will meet again on Thursday, May 14.