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School District considers budget priorities

Danielle Ryan

(4/29) At their April 4th meeting, the Fairfield Area School District discussed their 2016/2017 budget priorities. The meeting began with a presentation Ms. Dean, the business manager of Fairfield Area School District, which covered the projected revenue analysis of the 2016/2017 school year, which is currently estimated to be $16,626,825.

Dean noted that the projected school district expenditures are $16,910,918, leaving a projected deficit, which does not include capital improvements or technology of $284,093. The deficit will have to be closed by either reducing expenditures or increasing revenue.

Significant expenditure assumptions include: a significant reduction in projected special education costs, a salary increase of 2%, a medical benefit increase of 4.4% and Public School Employees’ Retirement System increase of 16.2%.

Dean noted that during the current school year, several capital expenditures have already been completed. These include: the installation of an elementary school playground, carpet replacement in the elementary school, an elementary school cable run, the utilization of an everyday math curriculum, and the purchasing of IP video cameras for the school(s). Other projects that were projected to be completed for this school year include: an upgrade to the auditorium sound system and lighting, the replacement of the east and west school entrance doors, an elementary and middle school mobile lab/cart and the replacement of the high school gymnasium wall mats. Dean hopes that these projects will be completed by the end of this school year.

Dean said that she would like to see a preliminary budget completed by mid-May and a final budget completed by mid-June.

May 31st marks the deadline for the school districts to adopt the 2016/2017 proposed final budget. June 10, marks the deadline to make the proposed final budget available for public review. June 20 marks the deadline to offer public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget. Finally, June 30 is the deadline for the district to adopt the final budget.

The Board adopted a resolution last November stating it would not raise taxes above what is know as the Act 1 Index. The property tax limitation ceiling is mandated by the Pennsylvania Special Session Act 1 of 2006 that provides a formula called the Act 1 Index which determines the maximum school districts in Pennsylvania can raise taxes without voter approval.

The current Fairfield school district property tax rate is $9.6898 per $1,000 of a properties assessed value, which for the medium property assessed at $220,900 results in a $2,140 school tax bill. The maximum school property tax rate allowed this year without voter approval is $9.9708, which if implemented, would result in a tax increase of $62/year for a median assessed property. However, even if the school board opted to close the projected defect by raising the tax rate to the maximum allowed, it would only raise $200,000 in additional revenue, leaving a remaining deficit of $84,000.

Following Dean’s presentation, member of the school board used the meeting to raise their priorities of the school district. Some of these include: a water heater replacement, a replacement to the chiller control panel, security upgrades within the school, a replacement of the divider wall in the elementary school, and the potential replacement of the elementary school roof. School board members also discussed other potential school improvements that are not necessarily a priority, but board members would like to see them completed. These include painting the gymnasium walls and maintenance to the school outdoor track.

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