WASD shows $3.5 million budget deficit

In order to combat a $3.5 million deficit, the Williamsport Area School Board voted 7-1 to authorize the administration to apply for Act 1 index exceptions at Tuesday’s meeting.

By filing for exceptions, it gives the district the power to raise real estate taxes above the index, which currently is set at 2.4 percent. Board member Dale Vollman was the lone vote against the item.

The measure was approved after Business Manager Jeffrey Richards informed the board that the preliminary budget showed a $3.5 million deficit. Richards called it a “worse-case scenario.”

After the meeting, Richards said most of the deficit was due to increased debt service and the district could lower it to $1.8 million by using unassigned fund balance. There also were unknowns, such as retirements, that could lower the deficit.

Debbra Savage, director of human resources, announced that 18 employees have filed for retirement, so far.

Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley said the district is continuing to work on the budget.

More “in-depth” information is expected at the board’s next meeting.

In other business, a presentation outlined boundaries and start times for district schools as a grade reconfiguration will be implemented at the start of next school year.

“What we’re doing is taking the next step with what was decided upon by the board (to close Round Hills Elementary and Sheridan Elementary),” said Richard McCusker, director of pupil transportation.

The district will use the state Department of Education guidelines that state elementary students living within one and one-half miles of their school will not use school transportation. The guidelines is two miles for middle and high school.

Board member Dr. Jane Penman had a concern with a boundary that required students in the western section of Linden to attend Hepburn-Lycoming Primary School, when they would pass Jackson Primary School on their way.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Don Adams said after the meeting that the district could change the boundary and would consider all options.

He was fairly certain that start times would be as presented, with high school starting at 7:45 a.m., middle school at 8 a.m., an 8:50 start time for intermediate schools and primary schools starting at 9:05 a.m.