Saying they wanted to have the lowest tax increase necessary, Superintendent Jason Perrin and Business Manager Belinda Wallen presented the Gettysburg Area School District board with three potential draft budgets that involve either a zero percent, a two percent, or a four percent tax increase.
The potential increases are necessary because expenses are expected to rise at an average of 2.7 percent across all categories, from $69.4 million 2021-22 to $71.3 million in 2022-23. The biggest increases are in property services and supplies, each of which are expected to rise about 11 percent.
See the full budget presentation here.
On the revenue side, state revenue is projected to remain the same at about $19 million, whereas federal revenue is expected to decrease to less than $1 million in comparison to the $1.7 million received during the 20-21 pandemic year.
Expenses would have to be cut about $2 million to avoid a tax increase.
Wallen said local revenue has increased by about $750,000, in part due to better collection practices.
Wallen said there are still a lot of unknown variables, and that the district was working with the county assessment office to estimate the effects of new housing starts and collection percentage.
The district said it has a $6.1 million fund balance and can use about $2.4 million of that to offset revenues and expenditures. The fund balance is set aside for spending in this year’s budget but also for unexpected expenses.
Wallen said the district had been decreasing its reliance on using its reserve funds to balance the budget, but that doing so would likely be necessary again.
Perrin said the district has been getting better at predicting revenue, and that the budget had only increased about 8% over the past 5 years. “We’ve done a really good job at controlling costs,” he said.
The option of decreasing the reserve fund balance below the currently-mandated requirement was discussed but Perrin and Wallen said that might reduce the credit rating and increase borrowing costs.
The district hopes to adopt a proposed budget at its May 2 meeting, which must be published 30 days before a vote on final adoption.
New take on School Resource Officer
GASD has been operating without as School Resource Officer (SRO) since about February 25 when a contract to provide services with the Cumberland Township Police Force ended.
To address the problem, the district is developing a plan to hire SRO Police officers as part of the system rather than contracting with a service. Other school districts, including Chambersburg and Waynesboro, currently use that approach.
The district is creating policies and a job description for the new program and expects to have one or more officers in place by early Fall.
Officers hired by the district would complete a municipal training course as well as a national SRO training course. The district would then petition to the Court of Common Pleas which would authorize individuals to serve. The officers would be given permission to exercise police powers including carrying a firearm and making arrests.
The district noted that local law enforcement agencies still respond to any emergencies that may arise in the schools.