Riverview may curtail programs, raise taxes to plug 2019-20 budget hole | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Riverview may curtail programs, raise taxes to plug 2019-20 budget hole

Michael DiVittorio

Riverview School District officials may cut programs and increase taxes to close a projected $530,000 shortfall in next school year’s budget.

District Business Manager Tammy Good recently delivered a 2019-20 preliminary budget update earlier this month.

It is posted under the business office tab of the district’s website, rsd.k12.pa.us.

Estimated revenues were listed at about $23.67 million and expenses at $24.2 million.

District officials project an additional $124,000 in special education needs, which could bump the deficit to $654,000. However, it was not included in the initial operating expenditures.

Potential cuts listed in district budget documents include the wrestling program, having all athletic programs be funded through boosters/parents, replacing athletic stipend positions such as assistant coaches with volunteers, and furloughing a music and library teacher.

School Director Alex DiClaudio said whole program cuts are unlikely, but some will be reduced.

“Even with a tax increase being considered, that doesn’t get us all the way,” he said. “We’re still going to have to look at some cuts. There’s no way out of this (coming) year’s budget without cutting something.”

He also noted that several of the aforementioned cuts are “not all realistic,” and the district would consider all cost-saving measures before approving a tax increase.

“What the administration’s doing is they’re looking at all the options,” DiClaudio said. “They’re putting everything on the table. It’s never easy, but a lot of public schools are going though the same problems (and) really tight budgets. It’s hard to come up with a budget that everybody’s happy with.

“We have a responsibility to deliver the best possible education that we can for the students of Oakmont and Verona at the most efficient and affordable rate that we can for the taxpayers of Oakmont and Verona.”

The board in January adopted resolution to keep any tax increase within the Act 1 Index, a state formula used to limit real estate tax hikes.

Riverview could increase taxes by a maximum of 2.3%. That would generate about $322,000 in additional revenue.

A property owner with the average assessed value of $167,000 would pay roughly $88 more in taxes next year.

District officials are also considering proposals with no tax increase, and one with a 1.15 percent tax hike. The former would result in stricter program curtailments than those proposed with a tax hike.

“I don’t think there’s a consensus on where we will land,” said David DiPietro, board member and finance committee chairman. “We’re at the idea stage at this point. No idea as a bad one.

”I would not be overly concerned at the very moment (about program cuts). If we were at the first week of June, the conversation would be very different.”

The board plans to pass its proposed 2019-20 budget May 13 and post it for public inspection. It is expected to pass a final budget June 17.

The district raised taxes for the 2017-18 school year from 22.4462 mills to its current rate of 23.0073 mills. One mill generates about $605,000 in revenue. It was the first tax hike in at least the past five years.

Board members held the line on taxes with this school year’s budget, but furloughed an art teacher, music teacher and elementary teacher.

“I don’t believe there’s an appetite on the board to make further cuts or changes in the arts program of this district,” DiPietro said. “We’ve done that and looked at that.”

A $100 pay-for-play fee to participate in district activities was also proposed. That’s projected to raise more than $20,000.

The district may offer additional retirement incentives which could save up to $300,000.

The business manager’s presentation also had some historical data beyond the budgetary line items.

In 1997, Riverview had 1,400 students enrolled and education cost about $5,400 per student.

By 2018, expenses ballooned to nearly $16,000 per student, but enrollment dropped to 979 students.

Staff salary and benefits jumped from $7.56 million to $15.65 million in those years, respectively.

Board members encouraged more resident participation in budget discussions.

A school board workshop meeting is set for 7 p.m., May 6 at Tenth Street Elementary to review the budget.

Administrative emails and phone numbers are posted on the “About Us” section of the district’s website.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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