The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting, plus Facilities, Finance and Policy Committee Meetings on July 20, 2015. There were only six Board Members were in attendance. Sheri Melton, Hank Oleyniczak, and Nelson Stoltzfus were absent.
During the meeting, the Board approved all but two listed recommended action items. An action to approve a list of salaries for District employees for the 2015-2016 school year, and an action to hire a new music teacher, replacing one retiring, were tabled for a later date.
2016-2017 Budget Discussions start…. NOW
We often hear that the “budget process” begins in July, which is true. However. the real and actual “budget discussions” don’t typically start in earnest until December, when the Draft Budget is presented. This pattern is changing for the 2016-2017 Budget.
Out of the gate, there was a recognition that Board created limits and guidelines need to be developed, which the Draft Budget will be created. There will also be early discussion of 5 year projections, to tackle the District’s coming financial crisis.
I proposed targeting a zero increase budget with tax increases to help balance the budget. Leon Lapp suggested a negative growth budget, with deep cuts, to keep taxes flat. Brian Norris is in favor of applying for Act 1 exceptions, which would allow the District to tax beyond the limit. Some discussion was also floated about using a voter referendum to go even farther, and attempting raising taxes beyond even what the exceptions would allow.
We should take note that for 2015-2016 the budget increased by 1.5 Million, the Board increased taxes to the Act 1 limit of 2.4%, and we still have a deficit of $1.7 Million, which will further deplete our Reserve. A hypothetical tax increase of 4.8% would have still left something like a $1 Million deficit… a 7.4% increase would have left around a $400,000 deficit. Moreover, any future teachers’ contract that is not budget neutral will negatively affect the Budget and taxpayers.
The Administration will develop what several options would look like, and present them to the Board early in the Fall.
In other news...
Dr Scott Rohrer, Principle of the Jr/Sr High School, presented class schedule changes to the Board. The changes are an attempt to maximize time, while allowing for the large number of students who need remedial classes, and/or to complete projects, to pass the Keystone graduation requirement.
During the Business Manager’s report, I inquired about the expected remaining expenditures and revenue for 2014-2015. Several months ago, the Board was provided a projection the District would end the year with a $800K deficit. Final numbers look like we will have a deficit of $500K, as long as tax revenues continue to come in as expected.
A final item that readers may find interesting is that Fence Project, for the Agricultural Sciences Program. It will cost around $33,000. The District will be applying for a grant that could possibly pay half the cost.