PASD board gives preliminary OK for budget

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Monday, the Punxsutawney Area School Board approved its preliminary 2012-13 budget.

The preliminary budget calls for revenues of $34,361,096 in revenue — an increase of $1,498,602 over the 2011-12 budget — which includes funds that were taken away last year by the state but have since been restored.
The proposed spending plan also calls for $39,399,198 in expenses — an increase of $685,446, a 1.77 percent increase over last year.

Business Administrator Susan Robertson said the district plans to use between $700,000 and $750,000 of its fund balance to balance the budget, barring any changes made to the budget between now and its final approval.

During a presentation to the board by Robertson and Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe, she said the estimated ending general fund balance as of June 30, 2012, is $9,953,071.

Robertson said the estimated figure to balance the budget — between $700,000 and $750,000 — is just that: An estimate, taking into account possibilities such as facility repairs or other situations that arise, for example.

She said until this year, the district has not needed to use its fund balance to balance the budget.

The process began in early September 2011, when teachers and staff were asked to present their own spending plans to building principals, who then made initial cuts.

“We told people we were going to have to make cuts,” and that initially, principals cut about 10 percent from every department, Wolfe said.

From there, the principals then presented those spending plans to Wolfe, who then evaluated the budgets line by line along with the principals.

Cuts to those spending plans at the administrative level were about $120,000, Robertson said, adding, “Most of those cuts had been made already.”

Most of the expenses in the proposed 2012-13 budget — 89 percent — are fixed costs.

Both Wolfe and Robertson noted that the district does not look at taking a huge sum from its fund balance to balance the budget.

The proposed plan for 2012-13 calls to use $4,914, 978 from the fund balance, but that is an absolute worst-case scenario, and not the actual figure the district seeks to use.

Last year, the district proposed using $5,851,248 of the fund balance to balance the budget — again, a worst-case scenario figure.

Of the district’s fund balance, $1.1 million remains committed for future Public School Retirees’ Retirement System.

There are some state funding concerns, such as Gov. Tom Corbett’s creation of the Student Achievement Education Block Grant (SAEBG), which initially looked promising — as if Corbett was adding funding — but opponents say it shifts more school funding responsibility from the state to the local districts.

Other concerns about state funding include the continued loss of Accountability Block Grants, to the tune of about $449,846; continued loss of Education Assistance Program, a loss of $109,446; and the continued loss of charter school reimbursement, or about $92,361.

Wolfe said funding for the SAEBG grant could remain level, but does not take into consideration expenses continually increasing.

Also, depending on the county in which one lives, a taxpayer will see his or her millage increase or decrease.

Board Vice-President Francis Molinaro noted that the district is not raising taxes with this budget, but Robertson said the increase in millage for residents in Indiana County, and a decrease in millage for residents of Jefferson County, is a result of rebalancing local real estate tax rates in between the two counties.

In this case, Jefferson County tax millage is estimated at 24.941 mills, a decrease from 25.141 millis, and Indiana County tax millage is estimated at 91.035, an increase from 84.447, Robertson said.

One mill in Jefferson County is equal to $298,107.74, and one mill in Indiana County is equal to $16,189.59.

The budget will be on display for 30 days, and the board is expected to formally approve the budget June 27.

Where Does All the Money Go?

• Salaries and benefits — $25,027,323 (63.5 percent).
• Debt services and transfers — $2,359,105 (six percent).
• Pupil transportation — $3,223,870 (8.2 percent).
• Tuition to other local education authorities — $3,596,425 (9.1 percent).
• Supplies, texts and equipment — $1,682,573 (4.3 percent).
• Utilities, repairs — $1,154,865 (2.9 percent).
—Punxsutawney Area School District.