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Draft budget for Southmoreland School District includes $781k deficit

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 1:16 a.m.

Southmoreland School Directors got an early peek Thursday at the progress of the 2014-15 budget.

A working draft presented by Business Manager James Marnell showed expenditures at $27,280,639 and revenues at $26,498,681, which would leave a deficit of $781,958.

However, those involved were quick to remind that it is extremely early in the process and work will continue to reduce that deficit before a preliminary budget is approved in May and a final spending plan is adopted in June.

“The budget is a work in (progress),” Marnell said. “We still have a lot of work to go in completing it to get to that preliminary (budget), which we'll need to adopt in May. But we are on track to working toward that.”

Superintendent John Molnar reminded school directors the deficit in the early stages of the process for the 2013-14 budget was $1.4 million and that was reduced enough that a tax increase was not necessary.

“Don't get too alarmed by that $781,958 yet, we have a lot of work to do,” Molnar said.

The district entered the current school year with a deficit of $249,304, which Marnell said was eliminated. A $220,000 refund from the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit covered most of the deficit, while holding back on various purchases covered the rest.

“The worst case scenario, we're going to break even,” Marnell said concerning the current school year, before adding. “I'm seeing a positive return.”

Molnar said in the last nine or so years the district has only raised taxes on one occasion. That came with the 2012-13 budget that included a 1.66 millage hike for Westmoreland County property owners and an .0821 millage increase for those in Fayette County,

Some of the other numbers presented by Marnell included a 26.4 percent increase ($474,503) in the contribution to Public Schools Employees Retirement System and a 2.95 percent projected increase in salaries and wages based on contracts. As for revenues, the projected state subsidies check in at $14,936,257, a number Marnell doesn't expect to see change too much when a state budget is put in place.

Marnell also presented numbers that showed Southmoreland had a lower 2013-2014 millage than all but two of the 17 Westmoreland County school districts (Monessen and Norwin).

“I'm glad to see I'm on the team that's fighting to keep the tax rate as low as possible,” Marnell said.

Marnell said another update on the budget will be presented at one of the next two board meetings, which are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 3 and 10 in the middle school cafeteria.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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