Avon Grove moves closer to finalizing budget
By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School Board authorized the advertising of its proposed $93.8 million final budget for the 2017-2018 school year at the April 27 meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese led the budget presentation to the board, focusing on educational initiatives, while the district’s business administrator, Daniel Carsley, outlined some of the financial details of the spending plan.
Marchese said that in the last three and a half years, Avon Grove has been going through a process of reinvesting in the district to balance some of the cuts that were made to programs between 2009 and 2013.
The reinvestment, Marchese said, aligns with the strategic plan that Avon Grove has developed to boost academic achievement and provide students with the learning environment that they need to succeed after graduation. The reinvestment has focused on technology, curriculum and instruction, and personnel—areas where expenditures had been purposefully limited because of budget constraints.
“We’ve been strategic when it comes to the reinvestment…to restore the district to a level that supports the intended outcomes,” Marchese said. “The primary goal of the revinvestment is to restore programs.”
Overall, spending in the 2017-2018 budget is increasing by about $2.3 million from the current year. Salaries and benefits make up a bulk of the increase, due in part to the expansion to a full-day kindergarten program and the increases in the state-mandated PSERS retirement contributions.
“School districts across the commonwealth have seen drastic increases in retirement costs,” Carsley said, noting that Avon Grove’s PSERS costs are going up by more than $1 million for the 2017-2018 school year. The business manager added that in Avon Grove, PSERS costs have increased from $1.9 million annually ten years ago to about $10.5 million for the 2017-2018 school year.
One new educational initiative that will impact the budget for the upcoming year is the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program.
Marchese said that early enrollment for kindergarten for the 2017-2018 school year stands at 270 students currently, up significantly from the same time last year when 155 students had been enrolled for half-day kindergarten. The district has been encouraging parents to enroll their children early to ease the transition from the half-day program to a full-day program. Marchese noted that August is a time when students enroll in large numbers, so he expects there to be a bump in enrollment then.
Another item impacting the 2017-2018 budget is the implementation of a capital projects transfer policy where one mill, which equates to about $1.8 million this year, will be set aside for future capital projects. This increases the school district's ability to plan the inevitable capital projects that are necessary.
If the budget is approved as is, the millage rate will increase by .7300 mills, from 29.040 mills to 29.7700 mills. That equates to a 2.514 percent increase. Carsley said that the median home in the district, which is assessed at $169,600, will have an increase in the tax bill of $123.81 if the millage rate increases by 2.513 percent.
Carley said that Avon Grove’s millage rate has increased by an average of 2.19 percent annually over the last ten years.
The budget will be available to the public for review and comment for 30 days. A final budget is expected to be adopted at a meeting on Thursday, June 8.