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Retirement costs weigh on proposed Waynesboro schools budget

March 20, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Continually increasing contributions to a state retirement system weighed heavily on a preliminary budget presented Tuesday to the Waynesboro Area School Board.

Business Administrator Robert D. Walker Jr. talked to the school board about the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, or PSERS, which provides pensions for teachers and other school staff members.

He showed a slide with projected increases over the next four years. The district is expected to contribute an additional $417,500 in 2012-13, $911,000 in 2013-14, $1.4 million in 2014-15 and $1.9 million in 2015-16.

“That’s scary,” Board President Ed Wilson said.

“We’re going to have to (soon) figure out — from thin air — where to pull $1.9 million?” asked board member Rita Daywalt.

Walker reviewed a preliminary budget for 2012-13 that reflects flat funding from state and federal revenue sources. The $50 million budget had a $170,000 deficit.

The school board must pass its final budget by June 30. It is not permitted to raise property taxes beyond 2.2 percent for 2012-13.

The district cannot control the PSERS expenses because they are managed by the state, Walker said.

“They have to service these pensions. There is a baby boomer population retiring, and they earned these benefits,” board member Billie Finn said.

However, Finn said she has “no idea” how the school board will meet PSERS payments in coming years.

“We must invest just to keep (employees’) salaries and benefits package where it is. ... That’s why (PSERS) is bankrupting almost every school district in the state,” board member Leland Lemley said.

“Salaries and related costs are without a doubt the biggest expenditures in the district,” Walker said.

Payroll is about $22.5 million a year, he said.

The school board started talking Tuesday about raising cafeteria meal prices 10 cents for 2012-13. Board members asked for more information about raising the price for adult meals, as well as those for students.

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