Spring-Ford approves $137.4M preliminary budget

LIMERICK — The Spring-Ford Area School Board set the jumping-off point for its 2014-15 budget discussions Tuesday by unanimously approving a preliminary $137,443,689 operating budget.

It carries a $4,891,331 funding shortfall from the district’s projected revenue.

When the budget was originally put forth last month, Spring-Ford Business Manager Tim Anspach characterized it as “very preliminary”

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“There’ll be many, many changes through the finance committee team working through the process until the final budget in June,” Anspach told the board at the Jan. 27 meeting.

In another unanimous vote, the board approved filing with the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Act 1 exceptions for special education and Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) contributions.

Spring-Ford did not qualify for the special education exception last year.

Such exceptions would allow the board to raise taxes beyond the Act 1 index set for the district this year (2.1 percent) without a public referendum to 4.427 percent.

Pennsylvania’s Act 1 index is the maximum amount a school district may raise taxes without acquiring an exception. The index is calculated through a formula including the average percentage increases of wages throughout the state and the federal employment cost index for public school.

A 4.427 percent tax increase would increase the mill rate from 29.15 to 30.44, accounting for a 2014-15 $172.27 increase for a property valued at $133,540, the median assessment in the district, according to last year’s numbers.

Setting the preliminary budget now gives the district’s finance committee a starting point to trim from or add, if it came to that.

By state law, a budget needs to be finalized by July.

For a quick Twitter recap of Tuesday’s meeting, click here.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.