Southern Tioga school board facing $1.8 million deficit

MANSFIELD – The Southern Tioga School board has some tough decisions in order to close a huge $1.8 million budget deficit next year.

Following business manager Kathy Ciaciulli’s preliminary budget presentation outlining the budget, based on keeping all six district school buildings open, the board voted 4-2 not to pass a resolution capping a property tax increase at 2.8 percent, which is the Act 1 index for next year.

Voting for the resolution were board members John Ritter and Ivan Erway. Sean Bartlett, Glenn Shaffer, John Martin and Jim Kreger voted against.

“If we increased taxes to the index, Lycoming County would see an increase of .27 mills or 1.9 percent, which is an average of $68 per year for a property assessed at $25,000. In Tioga County, the millage would see a .40 mill increase or 2.6 percent, which is $100 per year for a property assessed at $25,000,” Ciaciulli said.

When asked by Shaffer if she could recommend whether or not to seek exceptions for retirements, which are expected to increase by roughly 4 percent next year, she said she would not shy away from going after the exceptions, but added a concern.

“Without closing a school, I don’t think you can close a $1.8 million deficit,.” she said.

The biggest increases are by far the district’s share of retirement contributions.

“Our contribution by 2015-16 will increase to 26 percent, then 28 percent by 2016-17 and 29 percent in 2017-18, leveling off at 30 percent by 2019-20,” Ciaciulli said. “By then we would have a liability of over $3 million, which is over our current committed amount in our fund balance for PSSRs.”

Another problem is the increase in cyber charter school payments for students who have left district schools, which goes up to almost $800,000 next year, she added.

The preliminary budget must be posted for the public by Jan. 30, and adopted by the board for submission to the state Department of Education by Feb. 19.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding between the district and technology and curriculum director Sam Rotella Jr. to serve as substitute superintendent for a term of one year starting Feb. 1 through Jan. 31, 2015.

Shaffer explained that the board has been in process of obtaining a substitute since shortly after Superintendent Keith Yarger’s resignation was announced at the Jan. 13 board meeting.

The next board meeting will be Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. to fill three board vacancies, followed by a regular board work session at Liberty High School auditorium.