CVSD considers taxes

The Conewago Valley school board eyed tax increases to cover budget shortfalls during its meeting on Monday evening.

After reviewing the district’s finances and projected 2023-24 budget deficit, the board asked business manager Lori Duncan to bring more information about what a tax increase at the allowable index would look like.

Duncan said the district is underfunded by the state.

“One of the things that I wanted to highlight is looking at the state funding shortfall,” Duncan said. “So to be fully funded by the state, we would receive basic education subsidies of about $15.5 million. We’re currently receiving $12.1 million, so again, (the) shortfall is $3.4 million. Based on the student count and students that we are paying for, we’re about $849 per student short. So that just gives you an idea of where we stand and where we could be if the state was providing the funding that they should be.”

The biggest increase included in the 2023-24 expenditures is for instruction, according to Duncan. This is due to the board’s plan to add positions, including a director of curriculum, grants and federal programs, a counselor, an agriculture teacher, a reading specialist and math interventionists. The board also plans to add a school resource officer or similar option to increase security.

In addition to other duties, the director position will help the district with its curriculum.

“Now that we have the curriculum review cycle moving, everybody is now in a cycle and that work, from writing to implementation to the evaluation, needs to be overseen,” Superintendent Sharon Perry said.

Another large factor in the budget is the cost of cyber and charter school students, according to Duncan. The average cost for a regular education cyber or charter school student is $11,357, and the average cost for a special education cyber or charter school student is $28,553.

With 191 students in regular cyber or charter school, and 36 in special education cyber or charter, the total cost to the district is about $3,197,095, according to Duncan.

Duncan said the district’s spending per student is low, with Conewago Valley ranking 376 out of 500 for spending per student. Still, the district is providing a “very good product,” according to Duncan.

Duncan presented the board with multiple scenarios for tax increases to generate more revenue for the district, ranging from the full allowable index with a millage rate of 15.6691 down to an increase of 25% of the index with a millage rate of 15.0566.

At 25% of the index the district would generate $482,505. At 50% of the index the amount would increase to $965,011. The district would generate $1,447,516 in income at 75% of the index and $1,930,022 at the allowable index.

At the bottom rate increase, the impact on a $100,000 would come to $20.42, according to Duncan, ranging to $81.67 at the top of the allowable index.

Duncan said the board will vote on its preliminary budget next month and vote on the final budget in June.

The budget currently has a shortfall of $1,732,965.

At the end of June 2022, the district had a general fund balance of $7,972,899, according to Duncan.

Board president Edward Groft said the board is in “dire need” to seek grants and funding when available.

“Well, you see the shortfall there,” Groft said. “It’s like any other household. If you keep taking out of the savings account, sooner or later you won’t have a savings account. It’s like Mrs. Duncan said – at some point, if something major does happen, we don’t have some type of reserve. We may or may not be able to function.”

Following the wishes of the board, Duncan committed to bringing a presentation for the board next month with more information showing the increase set at the allowable index.

Feasibility study

As the board considers whether to construct a new K-3 building or look at renovating its current buildings, Perry said the board will continue the process of its feasibility study later this month.

Perry expressed gratitude to municipality leaders for drawing her attention to incorrect figures originally used in student enrollment projections. During the board’s last meeting, Perry had noted the figures were incorrect and that corrected enrollment projections are being completed.

Perry said the municipality leaders who pointed out the incorrect numbers have met with her to discuss the data.

“So I did want to publicly acknowledge them for their willingness to meet with us as a leadership team here at the school district, and that is also a thing that I wanted to highlight this evening are our partners,” Perry said. “Whether they’re our municipalities or whether they’re our industry partners and members of our community, we appreciate you very much.”

During the time for public comment, one individual expressed worries about the rate of turnover at the administrative level in the district, asking the district to make sure the employees feel encouraged.

Two individuals requested clarification regarding the budget discussions.

An online commenter asked for more information about the district’s security.

Dr. Brad Sterner, assistant superintendent of the district, said the district’s PSSA tests were delivered before the spring break. All schools except the high school will have ELA, math and science tests in late April and early May.

Recognition

In addition to a lengthy list of students who have had college acceptances and have been offered scholarships, the board recognized students for other achievements.

Hunter Kessler was honored for receiving first place in his category for the state’s Taekwondo competition.

The New Oxford High and Middle School chess team was also acknowledged for taking first place in the national championship K-12 unrated category in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

The board approved the resignation of Andrew Walker, assistant superintendent of Conewago Valley Intermediate School, effective June 30.

The high school will have Keystone Exams from May 15-26, according to Sterner.

The board will hold a feasibility study at 6 p.m. Monday, April 24 in the high school district auditorium.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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