Boone approves preliminary budget

The prospect each February of a possible tax increase in June is usually only a “preliminary” step to an approved budget and is not really “news,” except in 2014, when it most likely will occur.

Board member Andrew Basile cautioned the board (and public) at the board’s Feb. 10 Committee of the Whole meeting to be aware that things change through the budget process.

He expressed his opinion and criticizing that the media reports changes as if the school board “flip-flops” on issues.

Basile’s comment came after member Tamara Twardowski warned that approving a preliminary budget with kindergarten funding would confuse the public and give residents false hope.

The board approved by a 7-2 vote the preliminary balanced budget that includes a .81 millage increase to the index, but does not include kindergarten.

Board members approved in a special, earlier voting meeting new school board directors Larry Speed, Douglassville, to represent Region 2, and Brian D. Doty, Birdsboro, to represent Region 3.

They replace Monica Hamill and Robert D. McLaughlin, who resigned last month and whose terms would expire in 2015.

The preliminary budget balances the $3.5 million 2014-15 budget deficit with $2.8 million of expenditure cuts that include elementary band, half-day kindergarten, sports, extracurriculars, and 17 professional staff, as well as the use of fund balance money.

Interim Business Manager Kim Seldomridge presented to the board on Jan. 13 an Excel spreadsheet with budget projections through 2017-18 and annual tax increases of between 2.5 and three percent.

He also presented a 2014-15 budget model with kindergarten included, but no sports, extracurriculars, or 17 professional staff.

Seldomridge said kindergarten could be included if the district “opts in” to Act 1 (which it did on Jan. 27), and by using its retirement exception (a $1.3 million 2014-15 increase) in order to raise taxes above the district’s Act 1 index of 2.8 percent to 3.97 percent.

A four percent tax increase would add 1.15 mills to the current 28.9618 millage rate, for a total of 30.1118 mills -- an additional $137 per year.

A tax increase and program and staff cuts would only be approved with a final budget approval before the state’s June 30 budget deadline.

Even before Gov. Edward Rendell signed the Taxpayer Relief Act in June 2006 (now known as Act 1), school districts across the state have been required to approve a preliminary balanced budget, which is presented to the public.

Act 1 requires that preliminary budgets must be approved in February if a board chooses to raise taxes to the index.

Before Act 1, the state didn’t require approved preliminary budgets until the end of May -- one month before an approved final and balanced budget.

The February deadline allows district administration to negotiate with contractual partners as well as district residents on measures to reduce expenses and increase revenues.

A budget meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27, 7 p.m., at the Daniel Boone Middle School, Weavertown Road, Douglassville.

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