The Chambersburg school board passed a $62.2 million budget with a 2.49-mill tax increase June 26 after postponing its vote for two weeks to see what the state would do with its budget. Officials knew the state might come through with more money, but it had to approve a 2002-03 budget by June 30.
When legislators finally approved a budget June 29, they included additional money for education, but they said it could only be used for three things:
- Reducing debt.
- Reinstating programs cut during the budget process.
- Refunding or crediting taxes.
Vensel said the specific language on how to spend the money was vague, and the easiest way to ensure compliance was by reducing the debt.
The board did cut $228,000, including two teaching positions, staff and training money, from the proposed 2002-03 budget before passing it last month, but Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said he did not recommend reinstating those positions at this time.
"It's been said if we absolutely can't do without a position cut, we will be back asking for it to be reinstated," Sponseller said.
Vensel also said the easiest way to refund money to taxpayers would be to use it as a credit against next year's tax bill, and would amount to $9.34 for a $100,000 home.
"From the administration's point of view, the recommendation is the reduction of debt," Vensel said.
The next bond issue that requires a payment is in October 2004, for the construction of the Hamilton Heights Elementary School in 1999. He said money would be put in a sort of savings account to be used against the bond issue with the highest interest rate when it comes due.
"We can't just go and buy a bond out because they are in investors' hands," Vensel said.
The board unanimously approved a motion to spend the $265,000 to reduce debt.
The state required all school districts to reopen their budgets this month to incorporate the additional funding.
The Waynesboro (Pa.) School Board also voted this week to use its surplus to pay down debt. The district received $144,000 from the state after approving a budget that included $77,000 in state funds.