By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
PENN - The Avon Grove School Board passed an “Opt Out” resolution at its Jan. 23 meeting, giving it until June to adopt a budget for the coming school year by promising not to raise taxes by more than the district’s ACT 1 index maximum of 2.8 percent.
“We are making no commitment with this vote to raise taxes or not raise taxes,” school board President Brian Gaerity said.
The district finance committee recommended the Opt Out option after viewing a preliminary draft of the 2014-15 budget. The proposed budget totals $87,123,849, up 8.8 percent from the present year’s total of $76,381,691.
Should the board choose to increase taxes, the 2,8 percent cap set by the adoption of the Opt Out resolution equates to .749 mill. The district has not raised taxes since 2011-12. If the members should chose to go with the maximum increase allowed, the millage rate would go from the current 26.75 to 27.499 mills.
A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed owned property.
For a family with a home assessed at $110,000, an increase to 27.499 would add $82.39 to its tax bill, bringing it from $2,942.50 to $3,024.89. Out of 12 school districts in the county, Avon Grove has the fifth lowest millage rate, and is one of just four that do not impose an earned income tax.
The biggest increases in the budget come in instruction costs which are going up by $2.7 million and special programs that are increasing by $1.3 million. Another big hit for the district is the escalating contributions that are required to support the PSERS retirement plan. The gross increase for the PSERS retirement contribution is $1,685,509, and it is projected to continue to rise through 2020.
To fill the gap between revenues and expenses, using $3.7 million from the district’s fund balance is proposed. The district has nearly $23 million in its fund balance currently, but $10 million of that is committed to funding future PSERS contributions.
There are some items being considered that are not in the draft budget at this time. That list includes materials for a K-5 math program, professional development, establishing a schedule for replacing band and string instruments, and athletic uniforms. It also proposes adding the equivalent of 1.5 professional staff members and 2.5 support staff personnel. The total for those proposed major impacts would add another $567,066 to the budget.
The board will be holding budget work sessions in connection with finance committee meetings on Feb. 11, March 11, and April 8. Tentative adoption of the new budget is scheduled to take place on May 8 with the final adoption on June 12.
A presentation on the budget is available on line at the district Web site from the calendar page, under the January Finance Committee meeting link. Superintendent Michael Marchese indicated that there will be a budget link added to the Web site to make the information easier to find.
In other business, Marchese presented the board with two options for next school year’s calendar. The first aligns with traditional policy and continues as most years. Option two is different in that it has the school year starting before Labor Day, and running to June 8. Any snow make up days would be added to the end of the year instead of being taken from spring break as they are now.
Version two also moves early dismissal times an hour earlier in November and March to allow more time for parent teacher conferences each day, but cutting the number of days from a eight to six.