Penns Valley

Penns Valley Area School District officials eye cuts to avoid tax increase

With less than a month to go before the Penns Valley school board will adopt a final 2013-14 budget, district officials are still working to close a shortfall and to avoid passing along a tax increase.

The school board approved a proposed final budget last month that carries a tax increase of 1.62 mills. That’s $65.80 more per year for those with property assessed at $40,740, the median property value in the district.

District officials, however, say they are working to reduce or eliminate the need for a tax increase by looking for additional savings.

The proposed final budget contains a 3 percent increase in the district’s millage rate and would generate $404,000 in revenue, according to the district’s numbers.

That’s not even enough to cover the additional $637,075 the district estimates it will pay next year in retirement and medical insurance contributions alone.

It’s also not enough to balance the spending plan, as the proposed final budget carries a $170,000 shortfall. Revenues are pegged at $23.7 million and expenditures at $23.9 million.

The solution, according to Superintendent Brian Griffith, is to continue trimming expenditures while looking for additional possible revenues.

“It’s real simple math,” Griffth said. “With PSERS (retirement contributions) and health care nearly $700,000, even if we increase taxes as much as we can, we can’t make up the difference. That means we have to trim, and we’ll do that. We’re in this with the rest of the state.”

Griffith, in fact, is optimistic the district will find enough additional savings to lower the tax hit it would have to pass along to property owners.

Some of those savings may come from attrition, as the district will evaluate whether to replace positions of retiring and departing staff. Offering retirement incentives, however, is not an option for the district due to a lack of senority among teachers, Griffith said.

Officials will also look to bring services in-house if that provides savings. One program Griffith specifically metioned as a candidate to bring in-house is the distrct’s special education services.

Griffith said the district is also closely motoring the state and federal budget situations, which still make it unclear on just how much funding will be available.

While basic education funding in the proposed state budget is higher than it has been in the previous two years, it’s still well below 2009 levels, according to the district.

Penns Valley officials, meanwhile, will continue paring the budget ahead of a board meeting at the end of the month. That’s when the panel is expected to vote on a final spending plan, according to Griffith.

“Between now and then we’ll continue to have work sessions with the finance committee,” he said. “We’re looking not only at the budget for ’13-’14, but also looking into the future, the next five years.”