School boards face some early budget deadlines

Local school board members are in a situation they may not have expected.

They will have to vote on a 2016-17 proposed preliminary budget a month earlier than usual.

It’s a decision every public school board in the state must make on or before Jan. 7.

And it’s presenting an issue for some local school district business managers who said the earlier they have to create a proposed preliminary budget, the more estimating there is.

“Luckily, I’ve been in the position long enough to know the kinds of estimates we need, but it’s not that easy for everyone,” said State College Area School District Business Manager Randy Brown.

The goal for Brown is to complete a proposed preliminary budget by the end of the month so he can present it to the nine-member board in November.

Bellefonte Area School District Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said he already started drafting a 2016-17 proposed preliminary budget and will address it to the board whether or not the state budget is passed.

The board will then vote on it at the first meeting in January.

Bean said the board can adopt the proposed preliminary budget, or opt not to, but agree not to raise taxes for next school year by more than the adjusted index of 3 percent.

Bean said budget dates are bumped up by a month because of the primary election held April 26.

“That’s about a month earlier than they were last year, and it (the budget) is predicated on Act 1,” Bean said. “Since that (primary election) date is moved up, the district deadline to vote (on the proposed preliminary budget) is 110 days prior to that.”

Act 1 requires that the proposed preliminary budget must be adopted within a specific time frame from when the primary election is slated.

Brown said budget votes leading up to the primary elections are also affected, but it won’t change the end of budget decisions in May and June when a final budget is adopted.

According to state documents, the board must also vote on a preliminary budget by Jan. 27.