WASD looks to decrease its deficit and bump up property taxes .347 mills

Showing a deficit of about a $3.5 million for the 2013-14 school year, the Williamsport Area School District presented a preliminary budget Tuesday to show how it would begin to make up the difference.

The proposal included a property tax increase to the Act 1 Index of .347 mills – a property assessed at a value of $100,000 would see their taxes go up $34.70. The school board did give the district permission to file for exceptions that would allow it to go above the index.

Business Manager Jeffrey Richards said after the meeting that although it was an option, it wasn’t included in the preliminary budget.

During the presentation, Richards said that expenditures increased $6 million from last year while revenue only increased $2.6 million.

Some of the larger increases for the district were retirement – going from 12.36 percent to 36.97 percent for an additional cost of $823,000 to the district – and health care. A 10-percent increase in health care will cost the district an extra $654,651.

The district will see a savings in the elimination of one administration position, which will be vacated through attrition. The consolidation process the district will go through next school year also will reduce two bus runs for a savings of $94,965.

Using about $1.7 million of the fund balance also will bring the budget closer to being balanced.

But after the measures, the preliminary budget still shows a deficit of $675,701.

Now that Gov. Tom Corbett has presented his state budget proposal, Richards said he expects the deficit to be cut in half. He added that there still are unknowns that need to be figured out, which could balance the budget.

One item that could change in the budget could be the replacement of 18 retiring professional staff members. Richards said all 18 are budgeted to be replaced but with the consolidation of the district, it may not need to replace all of them.

“We don’t know that yet. We’re working on staffing now,” Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley said when asked about staffing.

Richards said he would update the board as the process continues.