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Frazier School District's proposed 2014-15 budget includes $430K deficit

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 2:41 a.m.

Frazier School District's proposed $16 million budget for 2014-15 includes a $430,227 deficit — which could involve a real estate tax increase and additional cuts in expenditures to balance a final spending plan.

Business Manager Kevin Mildren delivered the news to school board members, administrators and the public at this week's school board meeting.

When the proposed budget was initially adopted in January, it included a $957,719 deficit, Mildren said.

“The budget has been pared down, but we still have some work we need to do,” he said.

School board members are expected to meet at 7:30 p.m. June 12 to review the possibility of raising taxes and cutting additional expenses before a final spending plan is adopted by the June 30 deadline.

Based on current budget figures, Mildren said, tax revenues are expected to jump by $114,252 if the school board follows his recommendation to approve a 0.86-mill property tax hike, which would raise the tax rate to 15.1770 mills.

“This is the maximum amount permitted through exceptions granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education,” he said.

In providing budget details, Mildren explained that earnings on investments declined by $5,800 from the previous year because of lower available market interest rates and fewer excess funds for the district to invest.

Revenues from student activities decreased by $1,200 because the district eliminated its Driver's Education program, Mildren said.

The Basic Education Subsidy is expected to remain the same from prior years, Mildren said.

“This is further validated by no increase proposed in the preliminary state budget,” he said.

Subsides for Educational Programs allows for a $3,336 increase in special-education funding from the state, he said.

Mildren said the district's decision to increase the Pre-K Counts funding to 43 slots resulted in a $39,430 jump in grant-funding.

Extra grants are the result of the proposed “Ready to Learn Grant,” which will replace the Pennsylvania Accountability Block Grant.

“The details of the grant are not fully known at this point, but preliminarily, the state has earmarked $273,723 for the district,” Mildren said. “Previously, the Pennsylvania Block Grant was $63,970, so in terms of real increase, the ‘Ready to Learn Grant' would give us an additional $209,753.”

Mildren said slight increases in reimbursements are expected for SSI and retirement.

“At the present time, the amount is not fully known; however, based on the current payrolls and reimbursement rates, the figures stated are fairly accurate,” he said.

Medical assistance (ACCESS) funding has been reduced over prior year levels.

“Previously, we had budgeted $120,000, but due to the uncertainties with the state's settlement agency and the lack of funds received in 2013-14, the amount has been reduced to $40,000,” Mildren said.

Mildren said revenues overall are projected to increase more than $476,617 over the figures proposed in the preliminary budget.

“It is strongly recommended that we take the full authorized increase in the tax rates,” he said.

On the expenditures side, regular instruction expenses increased as a result of higher anticipated Cyber Charter School tuition and the purchase of a new math series for the Frazier Middle School.

“Special-education expenses also increased as a result of increased out-of-district placement tuitions,” he said.

Mildren said a slight decrease in vocational education is attributed to the anticipated elimination of ninth-grade attendance.

“Other instructions programs will benefit and save the district funds through the elimination of the Driver's Ed program and the elimination of summer school,” he said.

Support-services (library) expenses will increase slightly because of the need to replace and upgrade some library books.

No books were purchased in 2013-14 in an attempt to control expenses, but Mildren said there is a considerable need to purchase books for the 2014-15 school year.

Mildren said operations and maintenance budgets are down slightly because of lower anticipated utility costs based on locked-in rates.

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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