The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) board of directors spent over an hour on Monday evening discussing their new budget. The discussion came after District Superintendent Jason Perrin and Business Manager Belinda Wallen proposed a 2022-23 budget that would include a 1.9 percent tax increase.
The district said many cost increases were out of their control, mostly due to increases in personnel benefits.
Perrin pointed out that the proposal was still in flux noting the district had cut about $931,000 in proposed expenditures in the last two weeks.
The district said it had reduced its proposed building expenses by about $200,000 but that transportation costs would increase by about $200,000.
Perrin said he “hated to raise taxes” but noted the increase is small, based on an expenditure increase of about 1.3 percent of which about 1.2 percent is salaries and benefits.
Perrin noted the district has increased taxes at an average of only .66 percent since the 2018-19 budget year and that if the proposed increase was approved the average would move to .91 percent per year.
Saying again that the goal was to have frequent small increases rather than infrequent large increases, he noted the increase would be about $54 per year for the average parcel.
The district faces expenses of between $4.5-5 million for charter schools and $230,000 in unreimbursed free school lunch programs that occurred during the pandemic.
Perrin said the only increase in expenses in the proposal was the creation of the new school resource officer program.
Wallen said the only way to avoid a tax increase would be to move Kindergarten from full day to half day.
The budget also includes a decrease in 4 professional and 3 classified positions. The proposed reductions will occur through staff retirements that are not replaced.
Responding to concerns about foreclosures based on property tax increases, a county representative said there had only been two foreclosed properties in the school district over the past year and that the county always works with homeowners to make arrangements to pay the taxes.
Responding to a question about the plan to cut staff positions, High School Principal Jeremy Lusk said they would be able to meet state requirements after the cuts but that the changes would affect course offerings.
Lusk said the retirement of a math teacher would lead to higher course sizes, particularly among the upper-level courses. “Yes, it leads to higher class sizes. Our [higher-level classes] already run with high volume,” he said.
Lusk said the other two positions were in Family and Consumer Science and Health and Physical Education. “It changes things,” he said.
Board member Michelle Smyers asked for more details about the budget, including coaching salaries and mental health expenditures. Wallen walked the board through the broad expense categories, while saying a line item analysis could be provided before the next meeting.
Hodges said she was against the increase and made a motion to table the budget, a motion that failed.
Board member Ryan Davis said he was concerned with the need to continue raising taxes. “How do we operate within our means? We have to operate this like a business. Where do we cut? What do we do?” he asked.
“Nobody wants to raise taxes,” said board member Tim Seigman. “If a household is paying $3500 in school taxes but they have three kids and it’s costing us $18,000 a piece to educate them that $3500 doesn’t do anything.”
Only Hodges voted against the proposed budget.