New Castle News

Schools

May 31, 2014

New Castle introduces budget with no tax hike

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle school district’s proposed budget has no tax increase and will not tap into its fund balance.

The board introduced its $45,427,193 spending plan for 2014-15 at a special meeting Thursday. The total includes local, state and federal programs, according to district business manager Joseph Ambrosini.

The budget is about $700,000 — or 1.7 percent — greater than the current year’s spending plan, with the biggest increases being in the district’s contribution to the state retirement fund, health care costs, special education and tuition to in-state and private schools to meet the needs of district students. Ambrosini projected that tuition cost for next year at around $1 million.

He noted the proposed budget is tentative, pending approval of the state budget.

Formal adoption will in June, with the date to be announced.

District property taxes will remain at 17.72 mills.

The district’s fund balance at the end of this school year is expected to be $14,458,264.

However, in lieu of borrowing funds through an additional bond issue, the school board voted last month to use about $3.3 million from the fund balance to pay off its unfunded debt for the Lockley Early Learning Center project and about $1.5 million for improvements that are under way or needed at George Washington Intermediate Elementary School.

Those costs will leave the district with a fund balance of between $9 million and $10 million for the 2014-15 school year, Ambrosini told the board at an earlier budget presentation.

With the elementary school consolidation and the closings of West Side, Thaddeus Stevens and John F. Kennedy primary centers, the district will save through retirements and attrition and by eliminating operating costs of those buildings, Ambrosini said.

As a result of the savings, no operating funds will be needed from the remaining fund balance, he said.

Although some layoffs are anticipated, the district is still “checkerboarding,” positions, allowing teachers to move into other jobs for which they are certified. As a result, he said, it is still unknown how many layoffs will be needed.

Ambrosini noted the proposed state subsidy is “more generous” this year and includes a “Ready to Learn” block grant that supports pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and other early educational programs.

The district’s contribution to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System will be $3,750,000. Of that, $1,875,000 will be reimbursed by the state.

The amount districts are paying PSERS next year is 21.4 percent of the total salary of employees who contribute to the pension system. That is up from 16.93 percent this year.

Ambrosini noted that pending state legislation, if enacted, would cap the amount at 19.15 percent for 2014-15, and the district would pay $200,000 less.

“We budgeted the higher number to be safe,” he said.

“Is this a balanced budget?” board president David DiGiammarino asked. Ambrosini responded that the anticipated expenditures match the anticipated revenues.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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