No property tax hike in proposed Cocalico School District budget

By on April 20, 2016

 

Homeowners would see their tax bills remain flat under a $57.9-million budget Cocalico School District officials presented to the school board at the Monday, April 18 board meeting.

The proposed 2016-17 spending plan adds two teaching positions and several part-time employees, balancing increases in salaries and new information technology expenses with reductions in other areas.

In total, the budget would increase about 2.2 percent over the $56.7 million allotted for 2015-16. Most of the additional $1.2 million will go toward state-mandated retirement contributions, which have risen exponentially over the last several years.

In 2009, the district paid $965,714 into the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement Systems, or PSERS. Next year, the amount hits $6.9 million.

Superintendent Dr. Bruce Sensenig noted that the district has been able to maintain its music, arts, and technology education programs in spite of the retirement burden.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on providing options for our students,” he said.

Among the highlights in the proposed budget:

* Funding for the second year of a one-to-one computer initiative, with leases totaling about $400,000.

* Two new teachers, one in special education at the elementary school level and the second to lead a new science, technology, engineering, and math program at the high school.

* A $20-per-day pay raise for substitute teachers, a move Sensenig said was intended to stay competitive with what other local districts offer.

* A $4-hourly raise for nurse aides, employees Business Manager Sherri Stull said have been hard to attract and retain.

* Two new part-time nurse positions at a cost of about $25,000 and three new part-time positions for para-educators at a cost of about $35,000.

Stull said the district expects to see its costs for special education charter school services drop as more students opt to attend classes within the district. Textbooks fees will also drop by $316,000, even with the board voting Monday to buy new titles for several social students and math courses.

Many of the new costs, explained Stull, will be covered by an expected fund balance that will allow the district to start off next school year with $4.6 million. The district had previously stashed away money for future PSERS contributions, and officials plan to draw $2.9 from those committed funds next year.

While taxpayers will still pay 22.82 mills — or $2,282 per $100,000 assessed value — the district’s property tax receipts are expected to grow. Stull says that is because monthly projections show overall assessed value has gone up within the district’s boundaries.

District officials are also estimating local earned income tax receipts will climb by about $300,000, given recent economic growth.

With uncertainty about state budgets remaining, the district estimated flat funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education based on 2014 numbers. One formula could ultimately mean more money for Cocalico.

“We still don’t know how anything is going to be allocated,” Stull said. “Nothing is guaranteed for this year. Nothing is guaranteed for next year.”

Board members made no comment on the budget, which is scheduled for a preliminary vote during a 7 p.m. meeting on May 16.

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