Bellefonte school board passes budget

The Bellefonte Area school board approved a $46.19 million 2014-15 budget Tuesday night, but the district still isn’t sure how much funding it’s getting from the commonwealth.

Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger said although the vote has been made, the board could go back and, if necessary, reopen budget discussions once the state has its budget figured out by the June 30 deadline.

“We hear conflicting reports,” Potteiger said about state budget predictions. “Nobody has an answer.”

Ken Bean, the district’s director of fiscal affairs, said what that means for taxpayers is that residents of a home in the district assessed at $50,000 can expect to see a $23.85 tax increase — but that is subject to change.

Bean said he would adjust any tax figures that could be affected after the state makes its decision. He doesn’t expect it to be a drastic change, if any at all.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and never seen anything like it,” Bean said. “I heard through my sources they (the state) were going to level funding. Dr. Potteiger heard they were cutting funding.”

If a cut is the case, Bean said the state has talked about raising tobacco or other taxes to put toward education.

“There’s not much coming from the state,” he said.

Bellefonte isn’t the only district conflicted by the state’s delays.

“Schools are scrambling,” said board member Keith Hamilton. “Other schools are going into a reserve fund...We don’t know. We may get less money from the state.”

The approved budget is a $1.44 million increase from 2013-14 and includes hiring an outside company, Source4Teachers, that provides substitute teachers for school districts — effective July 1 to June 30, 2015.

While the service will cost the district $587,798 — $943 more than in 2013-14 without an outside substitute teacher contractor — it’s saving the district about $10,000, Bean said.

Bean called the contracting service a “clerical cost saving” mechanism that saves the district from additional health insurance costs for its subs.

Bald Eagle and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts use the same service. State College Area School District also uses a “sub service, just a different one,” Potteiger said.

With a $1.567 million food service budget, school breakfast and lunches will be $1 for breakfast districtwide and $2.20 for lunch at the elementary level and $2.50 at the secondary levels.

Prices were increased at the elementary schools by 5 cents, while the secondary level saw an increase of 10 cents.

The athletic fund is $525,000 — a $25,000 increase from last year.

Under the budget, some programs would be enhanced. No programs would be cut, said Assistant Superintendent Michelle Saylor.

Those programs are Project Lead the Way, the Chinese program and world language program.

The world language program starts in kindergarten, and includes Spanish and Chinese language education.

Project Lead the Way is a program that starts in middle school and runs through high school that focuses on math and sciences. It will include more engineering education next year, Saylor said.

A course exam will be done at the end of the program that will allow college credit that can be transferred to selected universities across the country.

“We pride ourselves on being resourceful and being for the students,” Saylor said.