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Norwin School Board tries to anticipate state budget

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 6:27 p.m.

Even after combing through Norwin's proposed $64.1-million budget turned up some $60,000 in potential savings, the school board is poised to approve a spending plan on Wednesday that requires a tax hike to make up for less state funding than officials originally anticipated.

When it was introduced last month, the preliminary Norwin budget included money from a $698,500 one-time “Ready to Learn” basic education subsidy that was proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett, said district business Manager John Wilson.

But feedback from organizations such as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials indicated that the governor's proposal likely will be slashed by lawmakers, Wilson said.

“What we are hearing from Harrisburg is that we probably won't get the entire amount,” he said. “So we cut (the expected size of) that subsidy to $349,000,” he said.

To make up for that, Wilson suggests trimming $20,000 from athletics, $20,000 from the high school, $10,000 from technology and $5,000 each from the middle and intermediate school budgets.

Even if those cuts are made, the district still would face a $327,000 revenue shortfall, he said, adding that areas still being reviewed for possible cost savings include utilities, transportation, insurance and workers compensation.

The proposed 1.85-mill increase in the real-estate tax rate would generate about $816,000 in additional revenue.

If approved, it would be the third hike in as many years. The district raised taxes by 0.65 mills for the 2013-14 school year and 1.45 mills for the 2012-13 school year.

The additional 1.85 mills would take Norwin's real-estate tax rate up to 70.95 mills. It would add $39 to the annual tax bill for a property valued at the district median assessment of $21,460.

Superintendent William Kerr said many of the school officials at a recent meeting sponsored by the school boards association that he attended were “very frustrated” by the state's budget process.

By law, district's must approve a final budget by June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. Although state lawmakers are bound by that same requirement, the Legislature often has missed the deadline.

“It's absolutely frustrating that we can't build a budget until we hear from Harrisburg,” Kerr said. “They really have us behind the eight ball. One thing we did learn is that you can't count on anything at this point until the (state budget) process in completed in late June.”

Board members indicated that if Norwin receives additional funding from the state for next year, they would consider reopening the budget to scale back the tax increase.

“I don't like the 1.85 (mill increase) for sure,” board President Robert Perkins said.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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