The South Williamsport Area School Board moved a step closer to solidifying the district's 2014-15 budget Monday night.
The budget does not require an increase in real estate taxes for the district as discussed at the board's Feb. 4 meeting, but it does carry a deficit of more than $215,000.
It is the second year in a row that the district has carried a substantial deficit. In the 2013-14 spending plan, the board approved a $248,065 deficit.
The district's total deficit for the two fiscal years is $463,382.
Board member Chris Branton inquired as to whether the district is permitted to carry such a high deficit.
"Yes," said board Secretary Denny Artley. "School districts are allowed to carry a deficit as long as it doesn't exceed 9 percent of the budget."
Superintendent Mark Stamm explained in an handout on expense changes that retirement benefits and health insurance costs to the district will increase significantly - retirement benefits alone will rise by $406,762 - but federal education funding will stay flat.
Stamm also noted that special education costs have increased by more than the $31,000 that the state will reimburse.
However, he said, the budget is "not anywhere near final."
"There is still a lot of work to be done in the weeks and months ahead," he said.
Part of that work includes the possibility of refinancing the district's debt to treasury bonds with a lower interest rate, which could have more than $130,000 in up-front savings, said Leslie Bear, of Robert W. Baird and Co., who gave the board a short presentation on refinancing options.
Bear will attend the next board meeting, when he will have a district-specific proposal for board members to consider.
In other business, the board accepted the resignation of board member Gregg Balawajder, effective Feb. 20.
Artley will begin the process of advertising for a vacant board position in Region I.
"We hate to see him go," said board Vice President Donald Lowe.
The board also approved, by a vote of 7-0, the hiring of Don Shade as a volunteer for the junior high girls soccer team; Kerry Taylor as fourth assistant for boys and girls track at a salary of $1,420; and Eric Hughes as a volunteer for boys and girls track. Voting in favor were Lowe, Greg Anthony, Chris Branton, Jerry Broskey, Sam Burch, Cathy Bachman and Sue Davenport. Board President John Engel was absent.
The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 7 at Rommelt Elementary, 515 W. Central Ave.