No real estate tax hike, program cuts included in Plum School District’s preliminary budget
Plum School District officials said no real estate tax hike or program cuts are in their proposed 2019-20 budget.
School board members voted 8-0 Wednesday night to advertise next school year’s $64.7 million spending plan. Board Vice President Vicky Roessler was absent.
The proposed budget keeps the tax rate at 21.0757 mills.
Projected revenues include $36.18 million from local sources, $27 million from the state and $1.47 million from federal sources.
Expenses include $37.25 million for instructional programs, $16.9 million for support services and $8.9 million to pay off debt.
“It’s exciting to know that we turned a corner,” district Business Manager John Zahorchak said. “We don’t have to balance our budget with borrowed money or use of (reserve funds) to do so.
”It puts us on a different path. It shows that we’ve closed a pretty large deficit, not only for this year but for years to come in the future.”
District officials were able to erase an estimated $1.1 million budget shortfall from January to May.
Zahorchak said it was eliminated through a $250,000 increase in state subsidies in basic and special education funding, six teacher retirements and more than $600,000 pulled from the district’s Access fund.
That fund includes about $100,000 from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and more than $500,000 from the district billing other entities for special education services.
Zahorchak said switching banking services, increased delinquent real estate tax collection through the firm Weiss Burkardt Kramer and maximizing state formulas for transportation subsidies is expected to increase revenue as well.
“Any opportunity that we could drive additional revenue in that aligns with our strategy, we’re going to go after it,” he said.
District officials increased taxes, closed Regency Park Elementary School, reduced kindergarten from full- to half-day and furloughed more than 20 teachers for this year’s budget.
Board President Scott Coulson said those difficult moves put the district in a better financial place heading into to next school year.
“There (were) some tough decisions that had to be made,” he said. “A couple things that we had to let go, and it was painful. I know John and his team worked really hard on tightening things down and make sure we’re not overpaying on things. There was a lot of things that they went through that (were) a couple hundred bucks here, a few thousand dollars there and were able to whittle that large number down.”
Superintendent Brendan Hyland said the district stayed within administrative guidelines established by previous school board members and administrators with the staffing cuts.
“We have great teachers in this district, and so we think we were able to ‘right-size’ it to a place where we think we’re going to be able to be more efficient,” Hyland said. “It changed the course of this district.”
District officials also recently approved a three-year deal with Extended Day Services of Upper St. Clair to use district facilities for before and after school services. Sampson Family YMCA has partnered with the district to help supply those services the past 30 years.
Hyland highlighted investments in technology, student achievement and that rumors about Advance Placement courses and other programs being reduced were not true.
“This district is on the move educationally, financially and culturally,” Hyland said. “We’re setting a higher level of expectation. We want to be the best.”
No more gym uniforms
Plum’s also eliminating gym uniforms next school year, which is expected to save district families some money. Students were required to buy gym clothes at about $16 an outfit.
Hyland said that policy will not be in place in 2019-20.
Zahorchak said there may be some changes to the budget before the June 25 final adoption. Changes include possibly hiring two teachers’ aids for the elementary schools.
The proposed budget will be available in the superintendent’s office and posted on the district’s website, pbsd.net, within the next week.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .