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Chambersburg Area School District's 2011-12 budget finalized

July 02, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — With the state's budget deadline looming, the Chambersburg Area School District is as ready as it can be for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The Chambersburg Area School Board approved next year's general fund budget by an 8-1 vote last week, with board member Carl Barton voting against the motion. Barton declined comment for this story.

The $109 million spending plan took a hit due to projected decreases in state funding and includes a 3.5-percent increase on property taxes for district residents, school district Business Manager Steve Dart said.

"We experienced roughly a $9 million decrease in funding for the 2011-12 fiscal year compared to the year before," Dart said.

At the 3.5-percent clip, millage rates jump from 89.61 to 92.75 mills. Wage and other earned income tax rates remain at 1.2 percent, the realty transfer tax stays at 0.5 percent and the occupational privilege tax remains at $5. A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Board member Anne Boryan said this is a "fair budget given the circumstances that we have to deal with, specifically not knowing the revenue figures from the state government."

"We may have an idea, but it is difficult to budget with an idea and not an actual number," Boryan said.

Facing a budget deficit of about $2.5 million when Chambersburg's budget process began, the district made cuts in numerous areas to make ends meet, which included a reduction of $500,000 in supplies and equipment and the elimination of 21.5 full-time equivalent professional and support staff positions, Dart said.

Programs eliminated in support of the budget included driver's education and the dental-hygiene program, which removed a dental hygienist position as well as supporting secretarial jobs.

The district also made changes to its health care plan starting Friday, which will provide another approximately $1 million in savings, Dart added.

When considering cuts, Boryan said the most important factor was to "spread the pain around" when considering cuts that were needed to close the district's deficit.

"By that, I mean no one department or no one school or no one anything take a bigger hit than another," she said.

Looking forward, Boryan said she is concerned about the unfunded state and federal government mandates that the district must follow, such as obligations concerning student achievement. Not every mandate is unfunded, but many are underfunded, she said.

"We are expected to comply with the mandates," Boryan said. "At the same time, (we must) provide an education to all students and improve the scores of all students. It is just not realistic."

Increases in the 2011-12 budget include about $700,000 more in transportation costs as well as the addition of debt service for the Franklin County Career & Technology Center's expansion projects and the construction of a new career magnet school, which is slated to start next year, Dart said.

After the cuts and personnel adjustments, an additional $1 million was used from the district's reserve fund to cover the rest of the gap, he said.

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