PASD budget: $2.7 million in cuts

PUNXSUTAWNEY — With all the budget cuts predicted from the state education budget, the Punxsutawney Area School District is proposing $2.7 million in cuts for its 2011-12 budget.

The Punxsy district, along with other districts in Pennsylvania, are having to create budgets that deal with a large number of cuts from the state as proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Wednesday, Business Administrator Susan H. Robertson told the school board that the proposed 2011-12 expenses are $38,713,742, a decrease of $2,739,013, which represents a 6.61-percent decrease over last year’s budget.

Roberston said that she and Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe sought to make cuts without affecting current educational programs.

“We wanted to keep the integrity of the programs that the district has and run them the same” — and that includes full-day kindergarten, she said.

Robertson said Wolfe worked very closely with the administrative staff and came up with $250,000 in line item cuts. Wolfe said he asked individual departments what would be nice to have and what would be must-haves.

“The teachers were great in saying, ‘This would be nice, but we understand the situation,’ and they were willing to back off on some of their requests,” he said.

Robertson said the cuts were across the board — a little bit from everybody.

Approximately 90 percent of the expenses in the budget are fixed costs.

Where does the money go:
• Salaries and benefits — $25,132,873 (65.8 percent).
• Debt service and transfers — $2,373,550 (6.2 percent).
• Pupil transportation — $2,776,500 (7.3 percent).
• Tuition to other local education agencies — $3,509,887 (9.2 percent).
• Supplies, texts and equipment — $1,933,052 (5.1 percent).
• Utilities, repairs — $1,126,305 (2.9 percent).

Roberston said proposed budgeted revenues are $32,862,734, a decrease of $1,957,636 that represents a 5.62-percent decrease over last fiscal year’s budgeted revenue. This is primarily due to decreases in state funding.

The district’s proposed budget will be balanced using $5,851,008 from the fund balance, she said. Last year’s budget proposed the use of $6,632,385 from the fund balance to balance the budget.

Robertson said this would project the district’s fund balance June 30, 2012, at $1,666,611, or 4.3 percent of the overall budget.

Of this balance, $1,100,000 is committed to future PSERs expenses.

Robertson said local real estate taxes represent a shift in assessed values due to the end of the Keystone Opportunity Zone program.

A steady collection of Earned Income Tax (EIT) is also anticipated, she said, while a decrease is expected in realty transfer taxes.

Interest income is expected to decrease 51 percent over the previous year’s budgeted amount.

Major decreases in state funding include:
• Loss of Accountability Block Grant (ABG) — $449,846.
• Loss of dual enrollment — $83,090.
• Loss of Education Assistance Program (EAP) — $109,446.
• Loss of federal portion of basic education funding — $1,578,390.
• Loss of charter school reimbursement — $92,362.

Robertson said the proposed special education funding will remain relatively the same as 2010-11.

The money comes from:
• Local revenue — $11,340,363 (34.51 percent).
• State revenue — $19,964,755 (60.75 percent).
• Federal revenue — $1,557,616 (4.74 percent).

Jefferson County’s tax millage is estimated at 25.497 mills, down from 25.927, while Indiana County’s tax millage is estimated at 85.643 mills, up from 82.679.

Robertson said the value of one mill in Jefferson County is equal to $294,845.38, while the value of one mill in Indiana County is equal to $16,242.51.

Wolfe said some of the areas that the community wanted to know about were kindergarten, tutoring and dual enrollment.

“At this time, it’s not my recommendation to reduce the amount of time in kindergarten,” he said. “It is my belief that we can maintain full-day kindergarten at least for next year. I think that’s what is best for the kids, and I think we can still afford to do that for another year.”

A familiar idea in terms of reducing costs in the future is reducing the number of elementary buildings, Wolfe said, noting that there are currently four elementary buildings with fewer than 100 students.

Wolfe said administrators were caught off-guard with Corbett’s proposed budget.

“We were anticipating cuts, but nothing like the ones that have been proposed,” he said.

Robertson said now that the preliminary budget has been submitted to the board, the administration is requesting approval at the May 9 voting meeting.

A 30-day inspection of the budget will then be made available to the public prior to final approval.

Robertson said the final adoption of the 2011-12 district budget will occur at the June 29 voting meeting.