by David Croyle
Summarize it any way you want. When the meeting of the Armstrong School District Board of Directors finished last night, your taxes went up.
But even with the increase in tax revenue, the District still will fall short of over $5 million in their projected budget.
With the new increase, tax revenue is expected to be $93,124,002. However, expenses are projected to be $98,272,821. In order to make up for the $5,148,819 shortfall, directors agreed to take it from a fund balance of $7,032,155 this year. That would knock it down to only $1,883,336 by of fiscal year June 2014.
ASD Director of Public Affairs John A. Zenone painted a less than rosey picture and predicted turbulent times for the District in the years to come that could result in other tax increases if spending is not reduced.
He told them that the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) is a problem. Even if current salaries of $42 million stayed the same over the next four years, the contribution amount required by the District would increase from $7.12 million to as much as $12.3 million. That number will escalate with future raises being forecast by year 4 from the new contract.
Zenone pointed to the new federally mandated healthcare (referred to as Obamacare) as another problem. He said the current health insurance will increase 8.93%, but did not offer an optimistic view for stability in the future. He said it was uncertain the effect Obamacare will have on part-time employees in the District.
Zenone said to not expect the Commonwealth to increase funding for education. He told the school board that the Governor’s budget calls for use of Pennsylvania’s fund balance to cover the deficit as well, so the state will not be in the position to give schools additional money.
In addition, the Commonwealth will be reducing the reimbursement offered to ASD for operation of its cyber school program.
Zenone warned the Board of trouble that may be looming on the horizon.
“We should be start thinking about putting money aside as well as cutting costs,” he said.
While the idea of a charter school in Elderton was nixed earlier this year, Zenone said the State could allow the concept to be revisited. Therefore, he did not remove the $2 million that was put in the budget that would be lost because of the school. Instead, he transferred the allocation to Budgetary Reserves since the possibility still exists for a charter school to be established in the future.
Zenone gave the scenario of the tax increase on a $100,000 property. Currently the tax would be $2,500. Under the new increase, that same property owner would pay $2,832.