CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield school board passed its tentative 2018-19 budget with a 3.16-mill tax increase on Monday night.
The $42.4 million budget represents a 5 percent spending increase and contains a projected $4.4 million deficit. Its fund balance is projected to be slightly over $8 million June 30, 2019.
According to Business Manager Sam Maney, the significant expenditures in the district’s budget include:
- salary/benefit increases due to collective bargaining agreements, $509,000;
- retirement contribution increases based upon a rate of 33.43 percent, $133,000;
- anticipated increase in professional service costs, $110,000;
- increase in school security costs, $102,000;
- increase in transportation costs $76,000;
- anticipated increase in tuition costs, $177,000;
- increase in debt service costs, $380,000; and
- increase in budgetary reserve, $746,000.
Maney said the district has experienced very strong financial results over the past few years, and it was able to manage its budget without a tax increase.
However, he said that expenditures were being projected to exceed revenues by approximately $1.6 million for the current-year and this is likely to be the forecast for the future.
Maney went on to say that the school board needed to consider a tax increase for the 2018-19 year. He noted the board was limited to a maximum increase of 3.22 mills by the state’s index.
He said that he left the millage blank in the prepared budget resolution and opened it up for board discussion. Board member Tim Morgan said he felt something needed to be done now.
He said the district is experiencing costs that it can’t control. He said if the board doesn’t increase taxes, that’s money lost and they can’t get it back.
Maney, along with board member Gail Ralston, expressed concern that the district could face a lower collection rate in local taxes, if the increase is too significant.
“We’re really behind the eight ball,” board member Dr. Michael Spencer said. “… The state isn’t doing its share.” It was noted that other districts have been forced to cut staff and programs.
Ralston then made a motion to increase taxes by 3 mills, which was later amended to 3.16, so that the district would have an even 98 millage rate.
Just prior to the board’s approval, Ralston said she hoped the public would understand the need for the tax increase and that it was to help cover costs, such as school security.
Board member Phil Carr added that the district has already been trying to make up funds through attrition and the public needed to be aware cuts could be made in the future.
The board also approved tentative capital projects and cafeteria fund budgets in the amount of $740,100 and $1.5 million, respectively.
Maney said Jeff Kavelak, food services director, is proposing 10-cent increases across the board for milk, breakfast and lunch in order to comply with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
However, he said Kavelak is considering a community eligibility provision because the student debt has sky-rocketed and it’s likely to continue into the future.
Maney explained that under the provision, every student would receive a free meal and there wouldn’t be any paid lunches anymore.
The district would get a reimbursement rate, which would be discounted from its current rate. He said if the district wants to move forward, it must elect the provision by June 30.
Maney said the district could raise meal prices, but it’s not going to matter if no one is paying for them. He said if meal debt grows to $50,000 this year, there’s no telling where it will stop.
He suggested that if the district elects to go with the community eligibility provision, that it hire a collection agency to try to recoup the unpaid meal debt.
“But keeping our same model, it’s just not going to work,” he told board members, adding he didn’t want to miss the opportunity and have the meal debt continue to grow.
When asked, Maney said that the district would still generate some income with the students’ al carte purchases, for example an extra sandwich at lunch.
He said Kavelak was looking into kiosks, similar to at Sheetz, where students would place orders and the items wouldn’t be prepared until they were paid for in some manner.
The board will finalize its budget plans in June.