Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed — The Springfield School Board’s Finance and Audit Committee gave, tonight, April 7, a detailed update of the district’s preliminary budget to a dozen or so persons most of whom were part of a Tea Party contingent led by Regina Scheerer.
The budget now calls for spending $62,479, 521 for 2011-2012 which is $544,000 less than the initial budget proposed in February but still $2,192,822 more than the budget approved last year.
The district’s actual expenditures for this year are projected to be $59,172,082 which is expected to leave the district with a $1.09 million surplus, which is a good thing since as of now revenue is $206,000 less than expenses.
Real estate taxes are expected to provide $46,456,313 of the new budget, which would be an increase of $2.033 million from the last one and translate to a tax hike of $128 for the average homeowner.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget would cut $750,000 in assistance to Springfield noted Don Mooney, the district’s executive director of operations although the state is still expected to provide $8,635,330 to the district. Mooney pointed out, however, that pending legislation may result in another $847,000 being cut to the district.
The meeting before the small group lasted over two hours, and Mooney and Committee Chairman Doug Carney described the ways that the board is trying to save money and the ways in which their hands are tied.
Carney said that the biggest constraints facing the district, in descending order, were special education mandates, contributions to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), and employee contracts.
It was noted that there was one special education student for whom the district was paying $125,000 annual tuition to an outside facility as per a court order.
One way the Committee said the district was fighting to keep taxes down for homeowners was by using innovative ways of keeping non-residents from using its services
and that these have resulted in the removal of 10 students from classes
so far this year.
It also said the District was aggressive and generally successful in fighting real estate tax assessments — it was pointed out that the Springfield Mall is trying to lower its valuation from $84.7 million to $64.96 million despite the addition of the successful new Target store.
Claude de Botton, the township’s biggest landowner, was singled out for praise as being someone who never fought his assessments.
The Committee also noted that the District was considering increasing walking radius by a half-mile, which would still be within the mandated guidelines, and that this would greatly curtail the use of buses. It noted that it had eliminated early dismissals which meant that it was no longer required to provide buses for early dismissal at Cardinal O’Hara and other schools. The Committee said the District will be eliminating three crossing guards next year, and will begin charging for the summer wood shop program.
The Committee expressed specific concern over SB 911 now pending in the state legislature that would remove existing exemptions from the calculation as to when a proposed tax increase triggers the requirement for a referendum. Those exemptions, Mooney explained, were for Special Education obligations, PSERS contributions and contracted obligations. Since the obligations would remain it was expected that just about every budget would end up being decided by referendum and be invariably voted down leaving the district no choice but to end unprotected programs like music and shop, and jamming students into classrooms of 40.
Carney expressed opposition to the referendum plan noting that the nation was founded as a representative republic. He said people will always vote to cut taxes and increase services.
Major looming expenses unveiled at the meeting were the replacement of the District’s six-year-old bus fleet, and, hold onto your hats, the replacement of the high school.
And of course the District’s PSERS contribution is going to increase from $2.3 million this year to $6 million in 2014-2015. It was $1.075 million in 2005-2006.
Springfield School District has 23 administrators — whose combined salaries are $2.1 million; 260 certified staff which is expected to increase by two next year; 217 other staff, which is expected to decrease by four; and 3,684 pupils which is expected increase by 116.
Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed