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Williamsport Area School District aims to avoid tax increase

Stressing that the proposed final budget for the upcoming fiscal year does not reflect an increase in real estate taxes, Wanda Erb, business administrator for the Williamsport Area School District, told the district board that the budget does include a deficit of about $2,179,086 which will be covered by using $355,000 of the district’s PSERS reserve and $1.8 million for the unassigned fund balance.

“Between now and the time that we adopt our final budget, we are going to be continuing to review our budget requests, looking for areas that we can make budget cuts or possibly delay budget purchases,” Erb said.

“We’re also going to be monitoring the state budget process,” she said, adding that the state is supposed to have a budget by June 30.

Final approval of the district’s budget will be on June 23.

In his report to the board, Dr. Timothy S. Bowers, district superintendent, noted that the preliminary budget was very difficult in light of the current economic conditions.

“We all understand the economic conditions of our community right now and it was important for all of us to try to figure out how we could deliver a preliminary budget that did not show a tax increase,” Bowers said.

Bowers emphasized that in order to accomplish that required a reduction of 14 professional staff members.

“The good news was that nobody got furloughed. No one lost their job,” He said.

“We were able to reassign people so that the elimination of 14 positions was through attrition,” he added.

Bowers noted that many of the teachers who are being reassigned at veteran teachers at the middle school who have taught there for a long time and now will be teaching at the elementary level in the fall.

“I believe that every district in Pennsylvania is seeing some economic challenges right now because of this COVID-19 and the impact that it had on our finances,” Bowers said.

He stressed that it has been a tough budget season.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have some work to do as you know we are closing the gap,” he said.

Explaining that using the PSERS reserve and the unassigned fund balance in order to balance the budget is not a great business practice, Bowers added that this year is requiring the district to do that.

“We’re continuing to look at other cuts. We’re hoping that the state comes through with some additional funding as one dimension we look at the CARES Act. We will be hopefully getting some federal funds which we are already planning on to close that gap as well,” Bowers said.

Looking ahead to the upcoming school year, Bowers said. “We’re not only in high gear to finish this academic year, but we’re already planning for next year.”

“We don’t know exactly what next year is going to look like yet,” he added.

He noted that a lot of what happens next year is dependent on the parameters put on districts by the Department of Health, the CDC and the state Department of Education.

“So, you know, we’re just preparing for every possible solution,” Bowers said.

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