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Greencastle school board facing tough budget decisions

May 01, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — The Greencastle-Antrim School Board has some tough decisions to make Thursday on whether to raise taxes or make some deep cuts to balance the district’s 2012-13 budget.

Schools Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover said the board is expected to adopt the proposed, final general fund budget with revenues at $32,700,249 and expenditures at $33,151,082.

“I think we have certainly taken any fluff out of this budget. We have done that over the last two years, and it’s down to a bare-bones’ budget,” Hoover said.

However, this is not the final budget. Hoover said. The board can make changes until the final budget is passed on June 21.

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On April 5, Business Manager Dick Lipella said the district could close up the budgetary shortfall by pulling funds from the fund balance.

At that meeting, the board asked the administration to present more budget cuts to balance the budget, Hoover said.

The district’s deficit now stands at approximately $175,000, due to $150,000 from a Keystone Opportunity Grant, and Greencastle’s contribution to Franklin County Career and Technology Center has been reduced by $125,000, Hoover said.

“We have cut a great deal of things, and now we are really at big-ticket items,” Hoover said.

One possible cut is the Tayamentasachta Environmental Center director’s position, which would save approximately $85,000 in salary and benefits, and about 10 aides throughout the school district that would save $200,000.

Kerrie Barnes, the current director of the environmental center, would replace a middle-school science teacher who is resigning at the end of the year, Hoover said.

“The board as it always does has three choices — to cut more to bring in a balanced budget, to raise taxes to take care of the deficit or to go into the fund balance to balance the budget,” Hoover said.

The district may only raise taxes enough to generate about $360,000 in revenue, Hoover said.

Board President Eric Holtzman doesn’t want to raise taxes.

“My personal viewpoint is we’ve raised taxes 6 mills in two years, and I think we need to stop for a minute and say, ‘How do we manage our expenses in a down economy?’” Holtzman said. A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 assessed property value.

In future years, due to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, he said tax increases would have to be an option, but not this year.

This year, the district’s contribution to the retirement system increased from 8.5 percent to 12.4 percent.

Next year it will jump from 12.4 percent to more than 16 percent, Holtzman said.

“PSERS is requiring us to shift funds out of other programs just to cover the retirement system, but there are other items hurting us as well,” Holtzman said. “We’ve had a cut in state funding. We’re not receiving more basic education funding over the last couple of years even though our student enrollment is going up.

“One of them would have hurt, but the fact that all of them are hitting us at once — it’s traumatic. I call it the financial tsunami,” Holtzman said.

He is hoping the public attends Thursday’s meeting.

“I think the public needs to come out and express their opinions and ideas. We want the public to help us find solutions for this fiscal crisis,” Holtzman said.

“This has been a situation we’ve known about for years. This just didn’t creep up on us. We’ve known that we have these financial obligations and yet we just really, truly haven’t addressed them.”

In addition, both Hoover and Holtzman said interscholastic sports and extracurricular activities were not on this year’s list of cuts.

“I don’t think there’s any appetite, at the board level, to make cuts (to) sports and extracurricular activities at this point,” Holtzman said.

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