School district looks at budget options

JERSEY SHORE – The Jersey Shore Area School Board was presented with three options Monday at its meeting to balance its 2013-14 budget, which as of now shows a deficit of about $520,000.

Richard Emery, superintendent, explained the board could raise real estate taxes past the Act 1 Index with exceptions; increase taxes to the Act 1 Index – .3737 mills for Lycoming County, .2008 mills for Clinton County – and make $250,000 in cuts; or close a school and see no tax increase.

“The only other alternative is to start looking at programs and I really don’t want to do that,” Emery said when speaking on cuts.

“The pie is only so big,” he added.

Adrienne Craig, business manager, explained that after approving a tentative budget, which the board is expected to do in May, it cannot increase taxes, but it can decrease them in the final budget. The board decided to have Craig prepare a budget with the Act 1 exceptions in order to give it all three options to work with.

“If you choose the max, that gives you all three options until the end,” Emery said.

And although the board could eventually choose to lower the tax increase during final adoption, she warned that the tentative budget will look “alarming.”

John Shireman, board member, said that no decision will make everyone happy, but the board needs to choose the best option for the district.

During a presentation, Craig said that state funding cuts the past few years has hurt the district because 55 percent of its funding is from the state, with 43 percent from local. A majority of expenditures comes in way of salaries and benefits as it makes up 69 percent of the district’s costs, she reported.

And although retirement and health care costs are rising, Craig said the district has been planning for the increase. The district will use about $250,000 from its fund balance for the two costs in 2013-14.

In other news, the board also voted down the approval of a licensing agreement with Pel Industries Inc, which would allow the printing of the district’s name and logo on merchandise for sale to retail customers. After agreeing that the move would hurt district clubs and teams that would sell merchandise for fundraisers, the item failed 0-8.