The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

June 25, 2014

Budget OK’d; state funds unknown

By Meagen Finnerty
Herald Staff Writer

WEST MIDDLESEX — Board members Monday approved the West Middlesex Area School District $15 million budget for 2014-15.

“We are losing money in revenue, but we are seeing a drop in expenses,” Business Manager James Hughes said at the workshop last week where school officials delved into the numbers for the coming year.

The biggest issue is balancing a budget when local officials don’t know what support they’ll get from the state.

“How can the school district pass their budget when the state hasn’t passed their budget?” Hughes asked.

Any budget approved before the state’s will most likely face some adjustments.

“It’s a moving target until he puts his stuff together,” Hughes said of Gov. Tom Corbett.

The school district is also still waiting for the state to reimburse about $2.3 million for the renovation of Luther Low Elementary School, which topped $6.2 million. The state has yet to make good on numerous agreements it made for school construction projects, including Luther Low and Sharon’s Case Avenue Elementary School.

Along with state money, Hughes also wasn’t sure what sort of federal funds will be coming to West Middlesex.

“What we’re taking an impact on is federal money,” he said. “At this point, I’m pretty conservative.”

The biggest single rise in expenses is contributions to the state employee pension fund.

“It’s severely underfunded so they’re making the school districts kick in additional money each year,” Hughes said.

Board members discussed evaluating different areas for future savings, including transportation, food and maintenance services.

Superintendent David Foley said officials have faced reduced funds for library resources and textbook-related expenses, but he’s hesitant to push that further.

“It’s hard to say it’s not touching the students,” he said.

But board members emphasized that all areas of the budget should be considered, not just noncertified staffing.

“I don’t think it hurts to look at different things, I think that’s what we’re here to do,” said Director Jack Grandy.

Board member Michael Dougherty agreed, and explained that discussions don’t guarantee that the board will approve any actions.

The board held real estate taxes at 62.02 mills for property owners in West Middlesex and Shenango and Lackawannock townships. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value; assessments are the 1970 market value. At 62.02 mills, a property assessed at $12,000 would carry a tax bill of about $745.

Budget at a glance

Here is a breakdown of West Middlesex Area School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget of $15,329,253, with current-year projection figures in parentheses:

SPENDING

• Instruction – $8,813,694 ($8,741,286)

• Support Services – $2,202,089 ($2,018,232)

Adminstration – $1,020,601 ($927,927)

Student activities – $540,672 ($416,622)

• Noninstructional – $2,834103 ($2,456,911)

• Debt service – $1,257,6001 ($1,536,826)

• Budgetary reserve – $70,000 (same)

REVENUE

• Local taxes, including a 62.02-mill real estate levy –  $5,363,950 ($5,729,600)

• State funds – $7,805,365 ($7,766,404)

• Federal funds – $6,000 ($20,000)

• Total revenue – $13,175,315 ($13,516,004)