Budget situation discussed in Avon Grove
● By Steven Hoffman
Several of the topics discussed at the March 24 Avon Grove School Board related, in one way or another, to the proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school year.
School board vice president Brian Gaerity, who serves on the Finance Committee, offered a report about the most recent committee meeting that focused on the expenses in the budget. He explained that the estimated expenses for the school district's 2016-2017 budget now stand at $87.1 million, an increase of about $1.8 million over the current year's budget of $85.2 million.
Gaerity explained that one item having a particularly large impact on the spending plan for 2016-2017 is the state-mandated contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). The rate is jumping from 25.84 percent to 30.03 percent for the next budget. That equates to an increase in expenses of approximately $1.4 million. More than $9 million of the total budget will be spent on the PSERS contributions.
In his Legislative Committee report, school board member Charles Beatty III offered some good news to his colleagues. The state legislature approved a $7 billion close-out package that would end the budget impasse that had reached its ninth month. Beatty explained that Gov. Tom Wolf had announced just a few days earlier that he was going to allow the budget bill to become a law without signing or vetoing it.
With the state budget finally resolved, school district officials will finally have solid figures for the level of funding it is receiving for the current year. That will also help district officials project funding levels for 2016-2017 as state lawmakers turn their attention to the state budget for the next fiscal year.
Gaerity said that the Finance Committee will be taking a more thorough look at the budget at the next committee meeting on April 12.
Beatty expressed his concerns about rising expenses. When the preliminary budget was unveiled more than two months ago, the taxes were projected to increase by more than three-percent. Beatty asked the administration to provide more information to board members about the requests for additional staffing. Beatty also asked about whether the administrative team could provide school board members with a five-year projection of expenses. He said that eight out of ten local school districts have such a plan. He previously asked for a five-year projection when district officials were considering the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese said that if the school board wanted such a five-year plan for expenses, it would need to direct the administrative team to do one.
“The board as a whole needs to dialogue about a five-year plan....and decide if it's something that they want,” Marchese said.
During public comment, resident Donna Dea, who attended the most recent Finance Committee
meeting, said that she was surprised that there was a request by the administration to fund 18 new positions district-wide.
“You have to figure out what the costs for these requests are,” Dea said.