WASD continues work on budget

A 3-percent increase in the millage rate will help to balance the $2.5 million deficit shown in the Williamsport Area School District’s 2014-15 preliminary budget, according to a presentation made by Business Manager Jeff Richards at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“The preliminary budget is the worst-case scenario,” Public Relations Director Greg Hayes said.

State law allows school districts to increase their tax rates by a specific Act 1 index. In Williamsport’s case, the board could raise its 14.816 millage rate by 3 percent to 15.260 mills, a hike of 0.444 mill.

An additional 0.444 mill levied against district homeowners would bring in $675,058 in revenue for the district.

However, the school district already has requested state exceptions that would allow it to levy an even higher tax than the Act 1 index permits – a topic that made board President Lori A. Baer defensive.

“Have we ever used an exception? We’ve never used an exception,” an irritated Baer said.

The exception is a safety net, according to Richards.

“Yes, we applied for exceptions. It’s not our intention to utilize any exceptions. We just wanted the opportunity to apply (for) it if the need is there,” Richards said.

In addition to a millage increase, the proposed budget will be balanced by $1.7 million in fund balance and an estimated $509,374 in attritional savings due to retirements.

The preliminary proposal to balance the budget still leaves $185,868 unfunded.

“Right now, it’s a work in progress. These are the best guesses we have today. Until the governor’s budget is approved, we won’t know if there’s any increases in state revenue,” Richards said.

Corbett’s preliminary budget “looks promising” but is subject to revision, according to Richards.

“We’re at the mercy of the Senate and House,” Richards said.

The district’s total estimated revenue is $80,441,109, with $38,369,730 contributed by the state.

Estimated expenditures total $83,002,035, with 56 percent funding instruction; 28 percent support services; 1 percent non-instructional expenditures; and 15 percent “other expenditures.”

“You’ll see a lot of revisions. Numbers will be changing constantly. We know the gap we have to work to close,” Richards said, referring to the deficit.

The board will vote on the proposed budget in April or May, with the final budget being adopted in June.