SHARPSVILLE — A preliminary budget for Sharpsville Area School District received its first vote of approval from the board of education.

The school board voted 8-1 to approve a proposed spending plan for the 2019-20 school year, which calls for a total expenditure of $18,760,067. Board member Janice Raykie cast the sole dissenting vote.

Raykie said she voted against the preliminary budget because she hopes to see the overall estimated expenses lowered before voting on the final budget.

“I’m not saying I would vote no against any tax increase, because that would be unrealistic. But I think it’s the intention of everybody on the board to try to cut that number down a little bit before June,” she said.

The budget’s current draft calls for a 4-mill property tax increase, from 78.5 mills to 82.5 mills. The owner of a property assessed at $17,250 in Sharpsville could see a tax increase of about $69.

However, the budget is still in the very early stages of development, and school officials will be meeting with the different administrators and committees to look at costs and requests for the coming school year, Senior Business Manager Jaime Roberts said.

“We’re still working on the budget, and we’ll continue to do so until the proposed final budget in May,” Roberts said.

The adjusted tax index for the Sharpsville Area School District was set at 3.4 percent, though school district officials are in the process of submitting the preliminary budget to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which will allow the district to apply for an exception to the adjusted tax index.

The exception is being pursued because of rising costs in the school district’s special education program.

However, Roberts said rising costs throughout the school district are also a challenge when determining where cuts can be made.

“One of the challenges is that our expenditures are increasing more than our revenues,” she said.

“Our expenditures increased by 3.8 percent, while our revenues only increased by 2.1 percent.”

The deadline to have a budget in place for the school district is June 30.

With the preliminary budget just a “starting point,” Sharpsville schools Superintendent John Vannoy said school officials will look at how to reduce the school district’s deficit over the next several weeks.

“We’ll be looking at all areas, and we won’t leave any stone uncovered,” Vannoy said.

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