Avon Grove School Board discusses budget situation, policy changes
● By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School Board's agenda on Thursday, Feb. 25 included discussions about everything from the preliminary budget to the purchase electricity to a series of school district policies that are being revised.
School board vice president Brian Gaerity, who serves on the district's Finance and Budget Committee, said that the committee recently took a look at revenues to the school district.
Gaerity talked about how the eight-month old state budget impasse is making it difficult for Avon Grove—and all of the state's 500 school districts—to prepare spending plans for the 2016-2017 school year.
District officials don't know yet what funding Avon Grove will receive for the current school year, let alone the next school year.
“It's a mess for the lack of a better word,” Gaerity said. “We are still waiting for that budget.”
Gaerity said that the district is taking a very conservative approach when it comes to factoring in how much the district will be receiving in state subsidies. While Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budgets have called for increased funding for schools, Avon Grove is not including the proposed increases because officials do not want to over-estimate that funding.
Gaerity went on to explain that there was a time when the education subsidies from the state paid for about half the school district's operations. Over the last few decades, that percentage has dropped to about 30 percent, leaving a greater burden on local taxpayers. Unfunded mandates from the state, particularly the contribution rates to the Public School Employees Retirement System [PSERS], exacerbate the problem for school districts.
In his Facilities Committee report, school board member Edward Farina said that the committee discussed an agreement that district officials have worked out with Constellation NewEngergy, Inc. for the purchase of electricity for a period of July 11, 2017 to July 10, 2019.
Farina said that the contract will save the district approximately $51,000 over two years. The school board then formally approved the contract.
The board approved the first readings of policies on behavior intervention for students with disabilities and a policy about special education evaluations and requests for independent education evaluations. There was also a second reading of seven other policies, including policies on interscholastic athletics, concussion management, sudden cardiac events, curriculum development, curriculum review by parents and students, exemptions from instruction, and resource materials.
The meeting began with a 15-minute preview performance of a few scenes from “Into the Woods Jr.” by Fred S. Engle Middle School students. The shows took place on Feb. 26 and 27. The school board members and the audience were entertained—and impressed—by the preview.
Gaerity jokingly made a motion to table all the business on the agenda so that the students could continue the performance.
As the students packed up and left the room, school board president Bonnie Wolff acknoweldged that the rest of the meeting would be less entertaining than the performance.
A committee-of-the-whole meeting is slated for Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Avon Grove Intermediate School audion. The school board's next business meeting will be held on Thursday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Avon Grove Intermediate School audion.