Bellefonte school board passes budget with 2.2 percent tax increase

The Bellefonte Area school board unanimously passed its 2013-2014 budget at its meeting Tuesday with a 2.2 percent real estate tax increase.

The vote was 7-0 with two members absent.

The $45,750,000 in expenses eclipses the total revenues, forcing the district to dip into its fund balance to the tune of $2,260,000. There is still $3,134,746 in the balance.

One increase in costs comes from a 2.8 percent increase in staffing, which includes five new positions, business administrator Ken Bean said. The positions are: three long-term substitute teachers; an instructional technology specialist; and a technology support manager.

Board member Keith Hamilton praised the board and the district for the work with the budget, even being able to add those new positions despite cuts from state and federal funding.

“There are just so many good things happening in the school district,” he said. “We’ve been able to hold the line and do things for the kids.”

The tax increase amounts to a $51.57 in additional costs for the average household this year.

Other increases include $26,087 in the cost of Public School Employees’ Retirement System funding and an additional $33,300 in food costs, which Bean said is skyrocketing

The anticipated allocation for capital improvements is $262,941, including nearly $63,000 in electrical improvements at Benner Elementary School and $200,000 for parking lot paving at the Pleasant Gap Elementary School. That budget would leave out a nearly $200,000 auditorium seating upgrade at the Bellefonte Area Middle School and about a $282,000 auditorium seating upgrade at Benner Elementary.

Board member Jeff Steiner commended district employees for taking a pay freeze in 2011, saying that act made the positive things in this budget possible.

“What happened in 2011 is why we are able to do what we are able to do today,” he said. “Every employee in this school district doing what needed to be done then puts us in the position to do what we’re doing now.”