[Editor’s opinion]: In my three years of covering the GASD school board meetings I have never been more proud of this district, this administration, and these board members than I am today. The district is facing potentially severe budget shortfalls going forward by making informed, transparent, and reasonable decisions about taxation and other issues. I thank each and every one of you for your dedication to the children of this district [cs].
The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) ended its 2021-22 school year by passing a 2022-23 budget with a small tax increase of 1.3 percent.
The increase represents an increase of $54.92 on the average parcel of about $260,000, but most people should receive a small tax reduction due to offsetting increases in the homestead/farmstead credit.
The needed increase was less than the district had proposed in prior meetings due to extra property tax income, savings from the district’s retirement account contributions, and increases in federal funds.
Business Manager Belinda Wallen said total revenue was expected to increase 3.6 percent from 2021-22 to $68,720,407 while expenses were expected to increase 1.6 percent to $70,527,832.
Wallen said increases in transportation and charter school costs, as well as the need to create new school police resource officer (SRO) positions led to the increased expenses.
Wallen said the district was taking a $500,000 insurance holiday to help balance the budget as well as making reductions in expenses for IT hotspots and utilities.
The district is also reducing district-paid field trips.
Wallen said the district may still need to use funds from the unreserved fund balance if charter school costs remain high.
District Superintendent Jason Perrin said the tax increase allowed the district to “carry forward the process of hiring school police and putting a couple of high school positions back in place. The goal was to impact instruction as little as possible,” he said.
Addressing the need for the SRO officers, Perrin said responding to acute emergencies is a small percentage of SRO officer duties and that the proactive aspect of the positions was crucial. “It’s the relationships that those individuals build. They become part of the staff in the buildings,” he said.
Board member Tim Seigman thanked the board members who had given individual input on ways to try to reduce expenditures.
“I appreciate the fact that our business office budgets conservatively. We cannot overspend,” said board member Al Moyers. Moyers said he did not want to cut services and noted that tax increases had been small and that no school could keep pace with rises in contractual issues without some tax increases. “I want the school to be the best it possibly can,” he said.
Board member Michael Dickerson said that during his time on the board he had learned that a school district budget was much different than a home or business budget. “We are letting professional positions go,” he said.
Dickerson thanked Perrin and the board members saying said that although the board often received accusations of not being careful with spending, those allegations were “very far from the truth. We’re pretty diligent in what we try to do,” he said.
Smyers thanked the board members, saying she had taken time off work and spent hours with Wallen going over the budget to understand how it works. “This isn’t easy. If I vote to raise taxes I’m raising my own taxes. This isn’t something I want to do,” she said.
Board member Jeremy Davis said he was a business owner and paid a lot of taxes. “I don’t want to raise taxes on myself,” he said, “but at the same time I want to make sure the school district is operating in a manner that it should be. I don’t want to sacrifice the security of our children or the teachers. The more security we can provide within reason it’s our due diligence to do so. At the end of the day I’ve got sleep at night,” he said.
Board member Ryan Morris focused on the need for police security, saying “my vote would yes because I want to ensure that my children are safe.”
Board member AmyBeth Hodges voted against the proposal saying the district had “overbudgeted and overtaxed its residents.” Hodges said the district should use money in reserve funds instead of increasing taxes.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is scheduled for August 1.