The New Castle Area School Board will meet at noon on June 30 to adopt its 2020-2021 budget with no tax increase.
The meeting is anticipated to be virtual through Zoom. The public can view it by connecting with the link on the school district's website at www.ncasd.com, and clicking on "District," then clicking on "School Board." The website also offers an option for anyone who wants to make public comment before the voting.
At a special budget session before the board's regular virtual meeting Monday, business manager Joseph Ambrosini gave an update of the district's projected deficit in the budget, which has been narrowed by more than $200,000 since the budget was introduced last month.
The projected deficit on May 26 was $680,000. Since then, the district has added in a savings in expenditures of $97,500 from the retirement of a business office teacher, $40,000 from reallocating COVID-19 grant money toward the purchase of supplies, and $34,000 from the retirement of a business office teacher's benefits. Additionally, the district will receive an additional $35,000 transportation subsidy due to an extra payment, according to Ambrosini's figures.
That reduces the projected deficit to $473,500, Ambrosini said, an amount that will likely come from the district's fund balance.
The district is ending 2019-2020 school year with a $2.4 million fund balance, which is projected to be $1.9 million at the end of next year, he said.
He pointed out that there are still other potential savings coming the district's way, from the possible retirements of a secretary and another teacher, the savings from refunding of a bond issue in December, and the district possibly receiving a reimbursement by the state for PlanCon money that it borrowed a few years ago to complete the renovations of the Harry W. Lockley Early Learning Center.
In contrast, the board heard a district audit report from John Rulli of Philip Weiner and Co. for the 2018-19 school year, ending June 30, 2019, that shows the district ended that year with a deficit of $1,362,578. The district received more money that year but it also spent more throughout the whole school system, in all phases, he explained.
The biggest part of the loss was in special needs programs, Rulli said, and with the influx of residents from Puerto Rico two years ago, the district had to hire special language teachers. It also had to pay more tuition for students attending charter schools, he observed.
"There are no more buildings to close, so somehow, they have to live within their means," he said.
Rulli noted that districts having deficits "has been trending here."
Overall, it was a "clean," or "unqualified" audit, he said.
Looking ahead, Rulli pointed out that with the COVID-19 shutdowns, the collection of wage taxes for the district could post a problem with income. Also, the district has a growing number of children who have special needs, which creates a bigger drain on the budget because of its need for personal care assistants.
The school district has managed to reduce staff through early retirement incentives and through the closing of its pre-kindergarten program, which will be run by Lawrence County Community Action Partnership hereafter, all as a savings in the 2020-2021 budget, according to information presented at previous budget meetings.