Yes, it is time to start thinking about the school district budgeting process. According to Act 1, Pennsylvania school districts must decide in January whether or not they will raise taxes above the Act 1 index. This index is provided by the State to every school district. The school district cannot raise taxes above that index without going to a voter referendum. I do not believe that the school district will ask for a tax increase that will be above the Act 1 minimum (about 1 mill). With that being said, I want to share with you some of the factors that will be part of the decision making process as the school district works through the budgeting process.
1. The school district is basing much of our budgeting information on the five year budget model that has been used for almost one year. The model allows the district to input various amounts of information to predict where the budget will be in five years. The biggest impact that the model has had so far is the decision this Fall to offer an early retirement incentive to try to decrease our payroll liability.
2. The new political environment in Harrisburg. The amount of State funding available for public education has increased almost every year since Governor Rendell took office. A new Governor and a Legislature dominated by republicans will probably mean less money available for public education.
3. The five year non-negotiable goals for student achievement and instruction will focus the school board on priorities in the school budget.
4. The impact of the pension “solution” put forth by the legislature to respond to the issues that are occurring in the pension.
5. Finally, the retirement incentive will play a large part in the budgeting process as the school district decides on who will be replaced and what positions do not get replaced.
There are some tough decisions that will need to be made in the upcoming months. I am confident that the school district will continue to focus on what is best for the children.