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Waynesboro school board considers budget reductions

April 22, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School Board continued whittling away at its projected 2010-11 deficit Tuesday, discussing a mix of cost cuts and tax increases.

For months, the board has worked with staff to trim line items to the bare bones while keeping the discussion of raising taxes mostly at arm's length.

Budget negotiations began this year with a proposed $1.7 million deficit.

Continually cutting money here and there should eventually bring the budget into balance, said school board member Chris Lind.

Lind, however, warned the board that many of the expenditure cuts it has discussed will produce only "one-time" savings, leaving the board in a similar, if not more, precarious position at this time next year.

Among items discussed for reduction were payroll, allotments to the retirement reserve, medical fund balance and some programs.

School board member Billie Finn said she could comfortably eliminate as much as $548,000 in personnel expenses from the budget.

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Board members said previously that they would favor eliminating positions before programs.

Non-personnel items that Finn said the district could do without totaled $164,000 and included eliminating the elementary Spanish program and the Latin exploratory program at the middle school. She also suggested stopping busing for PSSA testing and freezing library purchases for the school year.

Business Administrator Caroline Dean presented the district with a list of cuts proposed by the administration that would decrease the deficit to $780,000.

She also presented a new list of items for discussion that, if also taken out of the budget, would drop the deficit even further to $430,000.

Personnel cuts on both lists totaled $420,000 and were discussed behind closed doors Tuesday night.

Despite reluctance to raise taxes, some members said they felt a 1 mill increase might be necessary to prevent further gouging of staff and programs in future fiscal years.

"I don't want to see a tax increase for next year, but it might be prudent," said Lind.

Anticipating the following year to be "worse" than the revenue shortfalls expected for 2010, board member Leland Lemley said discussion like the one that ran until 11:30 p.m. Tuesday would only increase in difficulty.

"The impact will be fully felt the year after next," he warned.

Piggy-backing on Lemley's words, board member Pat Heefner said that despite the unpopularity of a tax increase, dim revenue prospects are proving an increase to be necessary.

"This year is a window in some ways," she said. "I'm in favor of raising to the maximum that we can this year in anticipation of next year."

The board already agreed to stay within a state index that allows it to raise real estate taxes up to 3.7 percent for 2010-11.

No action was taken Tuesday on the discussed budget adjustments.

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