Kutztown School Board members approved advertising the 2013-14 Proposed Preliminary Budget with a tax increase and shortfall of $412,000 on Monday night, Jan. 14.
During the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the board unanimously approved to advertise the preliminary budget with a tax increase up to the Act 1 Index which is a 1.7 percent increase, or .4887 mills, which would generate about $308,149.
The board also voted 5-3 to apply for the special education exception and voted 5-3 to apply for the retirement exception. In both votes, board members Patricia Bealer, James Shrawder and Craig Schroeder voted no.
The special education exception would allow a tax increase of .4112 mills which would generate about $259,259 and the retirement exception would allow a tax increase of .3914 mills which would generate about $246,786, according to District Business Manager Karl Olschesky.
The total proposed increase of 1.2913 mills would generate a total of about $814,194.
A house assessed at $100,000 would see a tax increase of about $129, according to Olschesky.
The preliminary proposed budget includes all three tax increases, he said.
Even with the proposed tax increases, a budget shortfall of $412,000 remains.
“The board and administration will work very hard to balance the budget,” said Olschesky.
He emphasized that the budget is very preliminary at this point.
“The preliminary budget is not binding and I don’t expect to come anywhere close to this,” Olschesky told The Patriot. “The board approved putting this all on the table.”
Olschesky said the biggest challenge this year is the pension rate, which increased from 12.36 percent to 16.93 percent.
“That’s a 37 percent increase,” said Olschesky.
Another challenge is not knowing what the state revenues will be until the Governor releases the State Budget, which is anticipated mid month, said Olschesky.
Kutztown Superintendent Kathy Metrick said PSERs, the cost of medical care, and the cost of cyber charters are all notable concerns.
“We have already made the obvious cuts, and we have already impacted programs,” said Metrick. “Moving forward, many of the cuts we’ll need to make will absolutely affect programs. That is one of the reasons for labeling the cuts as green - recommended (little to no impact on students and programs), yellow - recommended with reservation (significant impact to students and programs), and red - not recommended (devastating impact to students and programs),” referring to the recommendations made recently by the budget subcommittees.
The subcommittees consisted of residents, administration, faculty and school board members. There are six subcommittees: staffing, special education, student activities and athletics, educational programs, facilities, and technology.
“The budget subcommittees provide the collective wisdom of all stakeholder groups in the district. It gives everyone the opportunity to be part of the creative problem solving that can address the budget challenges,” said Metrick. “The biggest benefit is the communication piece. The decisions are still just as painful, but the process is more transparent, so when cuts need to be made, people understand the rationale and they had a voice in the conversation behind the decision. The decision doesn’t seem so sudden at the end of the process, because people have heard the final verdict evolve.”
The Proposed Preliminary Budget is available to the public to view online or at the Administration Building in Maxatawny.
Also, the board appointed a new interim business manager, Dave Miller, effective Jan. 18. Miller is currently the district accounting supervisor. Olschesky resigned in December.