Clearfield School Board Approves Tentative Budget with 3-Mill Tax Increase

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield school board approved its tentative 2019-20 budget with a 3-mill tax increase on Monday night.

At its combined committee and board meeting, Business Administrator Sam Maney said because the district has been fiscally strong, the board has only had to increase millage twice in the last seven years, totaling 5.16 mills.

He said the district’s expenditures have now caught up with its revenues, and for 2017-18, there was only a minimal $20,630 surplus. He’s anticipating it’ll end this current school year with a $1,147,481 deficit.

Though there’s a possibility the district could make up some of that deficit, Maney said he doesn’t anticipate any significant changes in the numbers that would overcome it altogether.

As of June 30, 2018, the district’s fund balance was $14,089,161, but he said the anticipated deficit would erode that down to $12,941,680.

Based upon the budget outlook, he’s also anticipating the district will end 2019-20 with a $3,723,533 deficit, which would erode the fund balance further to $9,218,147 on June 30, 2020.

The tentative 2019-20 budget calls for $42,939,457 in expenditures, which Maney said is a 1.16 percent increase over last year, and $39,215,924 in revenues.

He said the only way for the district to really generate more revenue for itself is through a millage increase. He said its current millage was 98 mills and a 3-mill increase would generate approximately $389,541.

Maney blamed the district’s fiscal woes on rising costs as related to line items for the salaries/benefits (due to new hires and collective bargaining agreements), retirement fund, special education and tuition.

For example, he said costs related to the special education programs line item were expected to rise by approximately $481,000 in 2019-20.  Of the district’s total enrollment, he said about 25 percent of students fall under an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Board member Tim Morgan said a new “champion” was needed in Harrisburg because the district couldn’t even raise taxes high enough to cover expenses that’s been levied upon them.

The district’s most significant expenses are salaries and benefits, which account for 65 percent of its budget. In 2019-20, Maney said it’ll spend $16,050,337 on salaries (up $507,399 over last year) and $12,180,586 on benefits (up $520,739 over last year).

Maney said though it’s not the popular thing to do, the board needed to discuss a millage increase. Board member Tim Morgan then asked if it were possible for the board to lower/raise a tentative millage rate before the budget’s final approval.

Maney said after the board tentatively approves its budget, it can only lower the millage rate. That being said, Morgan suggested the board approve a 3-mill increase, which it did, and hope its fiscal outlook improves before its June regular meeting.

Both Maney and Superintendent Terry Struble said they didn’t anticipate any significant changes coming before the budget’s final approval.

Struble added that the district can’t keeping trimming the budget, because it has to be prepared for things that have a tendency to pop up throughout the course of a year.

Also, on Monday night, the board approved the hiring of Heather Prestash as the Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School Principal, effective July 1, at a salary of $97,000.

The board approved hiring Prestash for her current position as the assistant principal and cyber services coordinator in November of 2010, which became effective in January of 2011, according to a previous report.

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