Draft budget calls for 1-mill tax hike
By Kristie Linden
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jeannette School Board members are working on a draft of the 2013-14 budget that calls for a 1-mill tax increase.
The board's 2012-13 budget also included a 1-mill tax hike.
During a budget discussion meeting Monday night, board members were surprised to find that planned expenditures exceeded anticipated revenues by a large amount. District administrators who were on hand for the meeting reviewed newly printed budget documents and saw that some of the figures were incorrect and were, in some cases, counted twice toward the total expenditures.
Matthew Jones, McKee Middle School principal, said a new software system the district is using could be the reason the numbers were not correct. According to district administrators and business manager Janet Langford, the new software system enables several people to input numbers for their individual departments rather than feeding all budgets through one person.
Because of the new system, some administrators may have typed in figures for salaries that might have already been inputted by another person, causing those salaries to be added twice. Federal programs supervisor Stuart Albaugh said such a mistake could be the cause of at least $430,000 of what appeared to be more than a $1 million deficit.
After some quick calculations, the board believed the true deficit to be around $750,000, but after a few minutes Jones said he was reviewing the budget he submitted and was able to identify more errors.
“There are some redundancies,” Jones said. “This still might just be a result of a new system. When the administrators met, all of our numbers were jiving. We're all working in separate buildings making calls (to correct issues). I'm not saying that we can identify (the entire deficit) in redundancies, but we need to stop everyone inputting their numbers separately now.”
The board agreed and asked administrators to set up a meeting with Langford and superintendent Matthew Hutcheson to review individual budgets to be sure the numbers in the software system are corrected.
“I'm not making any cuts until I see true numbers,” said Anita Mash, board member.
The board briefly discussed some added costs that are included in the 2013-14 budget, including the addition of four new positions, but decided to delay any further budget discussion until the software system issues have been worked out. Mash pointed out that discussing anything without true budget numbers would be fruitless and the discussion would just have to be held again once the corrections are made.
In generalized conversation, board members Randy Highlands, Mark Gogolsky and board president Joseph Yorio said if the deficit remains large, cuts will need to be made because the alternative would be a large tax increase. The board, as a whole, was shocked to see a deficit because in earlier budget discussion meetings the numbers were much closer.
If the 2013-14 budget is passed in June with a 1-mill increase, it would bring the district millage up to 83.72 mills bringing in $17,204,405 in revenues. The average taxpayer in the City of Jeannette would see an annual increase of approximately $11.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.
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