PHOENIXVILLE — The Phoenixville Area School Board will vote to approve a $79,021,839 proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year which will include a 1.88 percent tax increase.
is not an absolutely final one but will set a “baseline” for amendments and further discussion when the completely finalized budget is voted on June 6.
“This is not a final budget vote,” said Board President Joshua Gould. “This is basically setting the baseline and starting our process to move toward the amendments we normally do.”
By Pennsylvania Department of Education standards, a proposed final budget had to be approved in May, which will likely occur at the board’s next public meeting, May 16.
An increase from 2012-13’s approved budget of $77,743,531, the 2013-14 proposed final budget set to be voted on next week would increase the mill rate from 28.24 to 28.77 mills.
In that case, the owner of a property in the district assessed at the median value of $133,540 would see their annual taxes increase by $70.77.
A tax increase of 1.88 percent would fall within range allowed by the state for the Phoenixville Area School District.
For the 2013-14 school year, the Act 1 index, the state-mandated maximum allowable tax increase without an exception, was 1.7 percent for the district, but the district will take a small fraction of its approved exception for Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS).
For the 2012-13 budget, taxes increased by 1.66 percent.
One variable not currently factored into the budget is the possibility of an additional $636,000 in state revenue on top of what the district normally gets.
Although Gov. Tom Corbett’s current budget projects such an increase but there are no guarantees it would remain unchanged.
“Personally, I don’t think we will hear from the governor in time,” to properly adjust the budget, said Superintendent Alan Fegley.
If Corbett’s budget does go through with the extra state revenue money, the additional cash would be used to balance the 2014-15 budget, according to Gould and Fegley.
If the district were to factor in the full $636,000 from Corbett’s budget, as well as the possibility of a savings of roughly $322,000 due to a PSERS rate cap, factored in with whether the district wants to provide extra funding to the public library and the administrative costs of pay to play, a tax increase of just 0.14 percent is possible.
Board member Irfan Khan said a small increase like that is very attractive and discussed taking a “leap of faith” and factoring in at least a small amount of additional revenue from the governor’s budget.
“We increase taxes then wind up with surpluses,” he said. “I’d like to get away from that.”
“I think we’re going to get all of it or we get nothing,” Gould said of the proposed extra revenue.
The board informally decided to keep the budget where it is and change the baseline through an amendment at next week’s meeting if enough board members so desired.
When the preliminary budget was approved,
it stood at $81,754,535 and carried a 3.1 percent tax increase. In monthly budget meetings, the board worked that number down.
2013-14’s budget accounts for full-day kindergarten programming but also calls for a reduction of two teachers from full-time to part-time.
Originally, seven teachers, mostly in physical education and language areas, were slated for reduction in hours
from full to part-time. That number apparently included Phoenixville Area High School head football coach Bill Furlong, according to Lisa McLemore, who spoke at an April 18 board meeting against the reductions.
According to Fegley Thursday night, the reductions in the proposed final budget only affect a Latin teacher and another general classroom teacher.
The district used some of its fund balance money, $500,000, to help balance the technology budget, but cuts to that budget beyond what have already been agreed upon are unlikely.
“We have pushed off on the technology the last couple of years and the life cycle is coming where things have to be replaced,” said Khan, who said he and fellow board member David Ziev took a hard look in that area for additional cuts.
The proposed final budget would also carry an unassigned fund balance of $6,171,426, which accounts for 7.9 percent of the total budgeted expenditures. That falls under the 8 percent allowable fund reserve with a tax increase, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.