Teachers, custodial staff, grand piano: Why SCASD’s budget called for a tax increase

Delta to say goodbye to Fairmount Building

State College Area's Delta Program will move to a brand new building this fall, leaving behind years of history at the Fairmount Building.
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State College Area's Delta Program will move to a brand new building this fall, leaving behind years of history at the Fairmount Building.

The State College Area School District Board of Directors approved the 2019-2020 final budget with a tax increase of nearly 2% on Monday night to accommodate a host of new roles, positions and resources.

The tax increase of 1.95% amounts to an additional $72 for the average residential taxpayer, according to a media release from the district. It is expected to generate an additional $2,017,835 in revenue from the 2018-19 budget

The district says this tax increase is its lowest since 2006 and below its annual Act 1 Index maximum of 2.3%. Salaries and benefits account for about 72 percent of the budget, and required payments to charter schools represent 4.2 percent, or $6.9 million, the district said.

The biggest ticket items accounting for the increased expenses are:

  • A $382,425 request for seven additional custodial staff due to several construction projects — including the new Delta Program building, high school and several elementary schools, which increase building size in the district by 200,000 square feet
  • A $150,000 request for 1.5 gifted support teachers in response to an increase in students receiving gifted support services
  • A onetime $140,000 request for a Read 180 update, a required update for reading intervention software program that includes professional development
  • A $130,000 request for funding a grand piano for the new auditorium that’s needed “based upon the condition of the current instruments,” according to a memo from SCASD Finance and Operations Officer Randy Brown to Superintendent Bob O’Donnell
  • A $100,000 request for the remaining cost of marching band uniforms ($60,000 was raised through the SCASD education foundation)
  • A $93,204 request for one high school teacher to split teaching duties between social studies and art in order to meet student course demands
  • A $93,200 request for one elementary special education teacher to “meet student educational plans throughout the district”

Other new positions are: a psychologist doctoral intern to support student mental health; an online learning coordinator for increased student enrollment in the virtual school; an increase in teaching staff to provide elementary instrumental music instruction; two new elementary teachers based on student enrollment projections; an increase from part-time to full-time assistant director of athletics and advertising coordinator; and new auditorium support staff.

Other budget increases are: an increase to the professional development budget for curriculum, instruction, equity and inclusivity and paraprofessionals; a budget increase for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; increase to student assessment tools; and the replacement of fitness center equipment.

SCASD has a total 2019-20 budget of $163.9 million, an increase of 3.2% from the current school year. The increased real estate tax is slated to bring in $99.1 million in revenue.

Board members unanimously approved the budget; board member Gretchen Brandt was not in attendance.