Education

Schools get unexpected funding from the state

Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School.
Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School.

Some schools districts that serve Centre County are getting funding from the state despite the 190-day budget impasse.

It’s more than what one school district expected to get, and it helped at least one other district from executing a multimillion dollar line of credit from M&T Bank it committed to in August.

“It’s a welcoming relief,” said Michael Conte, Philipsburg-Osceola Area finance director.

The Pennsylvania Treasury announced Monday it sent 16,400 expedited payments totaling nearly $3.3 billion to school districts, counties and human service organizations.

Agencies started getting that funding Tuesday.

Bellefonte Area School District received $6,333,968, including $3.5 million for basic education.

$6,333,968total received by Bellefonte school district from state

“This line-item veto budget, for lack of a better description, shows that Bellefonte will be getting slightly more than a 1 percent increase,” district Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said. “If this budget would be the final budget from the state, Bellefonte would be getting slightly more than $100,000 over our budgeted numbers for the year.”

When passing the 2015-16 budget, district administration “purposefully” did not budget much of an increase because of the uncertainty of the state budget, Bean said.

P-O is expected to get about $7.364 million, Conte said.

$7,364,000 total received by Philipsburg-Osceola schools

That amounts to about 45 percent of what the district would have received if the state passed a final budget.

And that allowed P-O administration to cancel a $4.4 million line of credit.

“We’ve been holding off pushing the button on that until the drop-dead deadline,” Conte said. “Believe me; I was tempted to use it over holiday break a few times because of the uncertainty (from the state).”

Conte said the district dipped into other fund balances to make up for “budget shortfalls,” and relied on about $1.5 million in taxes collected before the new year.

With recent funds from the state, the district will operate as normal, Conte said, and added that the district was able to get by without borrowing money by “cutting out all unnecessary expenditures.”

But there’s still work that needs to be done.

“Until the district sees exactly what it is getting and what caveats come with those funds, it is difficult to make any decisions for the district,” Bean said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Bellefonte board OKs proposed preliminary budget

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Bellefonte Area school board approved the 2016-17 proposed preliminary budget.

State law requires district boards of directors to approve a series of tentative budget plans by specific deadlines before a final budget is approved in June.

The proposed preliminary budget calls for $49.315 million in funding — an increase from $47.6 million this school year.

That could mean a 4.9 percent increase in taxes, according to a report from the district.

But district Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said that is an unlikely figure by the time the final budget is passed.

“I don’t think that’s where we will be,” he said. “It’s a high estimated number we can work with.”

— Britney Milazzo

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