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Westmoreland

Norwin faces yet another school budget deficit

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 6:42 p.m.

Norwin school officials find themselves in familiar territory as they work on a preliminary budget for next school year: possibly raise property taxes again or slash costs, in part by offering teachers incentives to retire.

Norwin faces a projected $2.36 million deficit for the 2018-19 school year — mainly from a $3 million increase in expected expenses, said Ryan Kirsch, Norwin's director of business affairs.

District costs next year are estimated at $71.7 million, with revenues projected to be about $69.3 million — an amount already padded by $100,000 from a reserve fund.

Kirsch's budget projection presumes no real estate tax hike and no staff retirements or resignations. At least two teachers will retire and one will resign at the end of the school year, he said in a recent budget overview before the school board.

If the district increased property taxes by 2.4 mills, the maximum permitted by the state, it would raise about $960,000.

In the last three years, Norwin has raised taxes to the state-allowed maximum, Kirsch said.

The district has raised property taxes each year since 2013-14. Real estate tax rates in North Huntingdon, Irwin and North Irwin increased from 69.1 mills to 77.6 mills over that time.

Robert Perkins, school board president, said there is time to make necessary adjustments before a budget must be approved by June 30.

State subsidies for basic and special education are less than adequate to meet operating costs, the district said.

The administration and board faced a $3.3 million deficit last year when preparing the 2017-18 budget. The current $68.6 million budget was balanced by raising taxes by 2.4 mills, a $52 increase in taxes for a property at the median assessed value of $21,630.

Kirsch said about $53 million, or three-quarters, of district expenditures are locked in to salaries and benefits. Salaries account for 46 percent of that total.

To reduce staffing, the school board approved offering early-retirement incentives for teachers. District officials want another six teachers to join the two already planning to retire.

Details of the incentives must be worked out with the Norwin Education Association, the union that represents teachers, Perkins said.

Central office administrators also will be eligible for a retirement incentive on a case-by-case basis. The board plans to review how many of the 16 long-term substitutes will become full-time.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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