Salisbury Press

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

SALISBURY TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT

Thursday, December 21, 2017 by MARGE HOPKINS Special to The Press in Local News

It’s that time of the year when school districts across the commonwealth start fine tuning their budgets for the next school year.

At the Salisbury Township School District operations committee meeting Dec. 6, Board Secretary Robert Bruchak said he is looking at a “status quo budget,” without any additions or reductions to any of the programs in the district.

The difficulty in the 2018-2019 budget is similar to those of prior years – how to fill the gap between expenses and revenue.

“Salisbury Township School District revenue relies heavily on our local property taxes, with $28 million from local revenues, or about 80 percent of the budget,” Bruchak said.

The district gets the remaining revenue from the state and federal government. Bruchak noted the federal government contributes less than one percent of the revenue.

Budget projections are conservative, according to Bruchak and revenues from the state and federal government are “level funded” without much consideration for additional revenue for the district from either source.

Most of the district’s expenses are based on salaries and benefits with an additional strain from the Public School Employees Retirement System. The PSERS contribution is just over 34 percent of the budget for salaries.

The Lehigh Carbon Technical Institute and Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit also add to the expenses; however, Bruchak noted the projected expenses do not include an increase.

The gap between revenue and expenses for the 2018-2019 budget is slightly higher than the last budget at $1.6 million. The initial gap for the current school year which was $1.5 million, was closed in part from the district’s fund balance.

In order to help fill the gap, revenue would be generated from a raise in property taxes through the ACT I index considered to be at 2.4 percent, an equivalent to an increase of $600,000. The district has an opportunity to exceed the index through exceptions considered necessary to cover expenses.

Bruchak said the board will need to make a decision whether they want to pass a resolution to “live within the ACT I index” or to pass a preliminary budget. Because of the volatility of the state and the lack of increased funding for education, Bruchak suggested the board not pass the resolution.

According to Bruchak, there is still a great deal of work concerning the budget and many changes will come over the next several months.

“This budget has me more concerned than any other budget, it’s just ugly,” Director George Gatanis said.

Following the budget discussion, Director of Maintenance, Buildings and Grounds William Brackett addressed the proposed projects for the summer.

Brackett said the creation of a varsity softball field dugout and steps for the tennis court are the two projects slated for the summer.

The projects would be completed in tandem using D’Huy Engineering, Inc.

The dugouts would come at an expense of between $60,000 to $70,000 which includes permits and plans for the project, a backstop cover, sideline fencing and redesign of the entire home plate area.

After reviewing the project, Director Joseph Gnall said it was hard to approve the expenditure after the budget discussion.

Director Audrey Frick agreed, “It’s kind of hard to say yes to any of these projects; although we have to keep moving things forward, we also have to prioritize what we really need.”

Vice President Samuel DeFrank said the district should proceed only with the $1,500 for the design plan and the expense would come from the existing budget. Once the plans are received, the board should review them and determine whether to proceed further.

Brackett said he would give D’Huy the “go ahead” to proceed with the design plans and would ask them for a better understanding of the expense for the project.

Director Susan Lea expressed concern over the safety of an enclosed dugout in close proximity to the elementary school. According to Brackett, the area could be secured with locks.

To address the concerns of a township resident who attended the last operations committee meeting to express an issue with the lack of handicap cut-outs on Gaskill Avenue at Harry S Truman Elementary School, the board agreed to install a centrally located handicap pad. The expense for the pad is $3,000, according to Brackett.

Board President Frank Frankenfield suggested there could be funding for the handicap ramps and asked Brackett if he could reach out to the township to see if funding was available from the township for the project.