School board approves 3.45 percent tax increase

By on June 19, 2013

By:

MICHAEL C. UPTON Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

Warwick School Board approved its financial plan for the 2013-14 school year Tuesday night. The often-discussed budget of $63.8 million received unanimous approval and little comment from the board. However, a packed crowd of new educators filled the district office board room to express gratitude.

The final budget calls for a .64 mil increase in property taxes, or 3.45 percent, to set the total rate at 19.21. According to district calculations, the new rate will propose an increase of $109 on a residence appraised at $170,000. This number has decreased from $116, which was the proposed budget presented in May.

"It was a lot of tinkering," said Superintendent Dr. April Hershey after the meeting. "(Most cost reductions came from reducing) supplies. We also have better numbers when it comes to special education and … revenue. It was really just minor tinkering here at the end."

Some of the additional money trimmed by the district prior to Tuesday’s approval includes $500,000 in savings due to retirements, $258,000 in non-repetitive maintenance, $40,000 in supplies, $30,000 in technology, $14,000 in athletics and $200,000 in energy costs.

The budget will collect $35 million from property taxes, with a total of $42.3 million coming from all local resources. State funding is expected to equal $17.9 million. Federal funding accounts for $649,467 of the new budget, a fraction down from the $671,606 expected in May. The district will draw $2.8 million from its fund balance to budget the current year’s expenses.

"We are always concerned about drawing down the fund balance," said Hershey. "If you look over the last several years we’ve always projected to down spend the fund balance, but throughout the year we institute cost saving measures so we never down spend nearly what we project."

As for expenditures, the majority of the spending – $35.7 million – is distributed to instructional programs. Support services account for 25.58 percent of the district’s budget – broken down by $4.7 million for instructional services, $3.5 million for administration, $4.3 million tagged for operation and maintenance, and another $2.1 million for transportation. Pupil health and business/fiscal fill out the category of support services.

The remainder of expenditures includes non-instructional services (student services and building improvements) as well as finance uses.

In May, business manager David Zerbe warned about impending costs arising from the Public School Employees Retirement System. He called for additional state funding for special education to curb further tax increases or program cuts.

"Obviously, there is always something going on (in Harrisburg)," said Hershey. "At this point, (the state) has two weeks to get (a budget) done. We just don’t know. We didn’t count on anything additional coming from (the state) at this point."

In other news, the board approved nine new hires for instructional positions in the district, many of whom were present for the regular business meeting and addressed the board that hired them. Among the teachers, librarians and counselors approved to work in the district Tuesday, one was a familiar face. Returning to Warwick, formerly a student and now a teacher, is Emily Hursh. Hursh will step into the seat vacated by the retiring Sharon Riegel and teach second grade at Kissel Hill Elementary School.

"We look for the very best candidates, and we had hundreds and hundreds of applications, most specifically for elementary positions, so we are very pleased that one of the best candidates from that pool is a Warwick (graduate)," said Hershey. "It just goes to show the quality of the education (students) receive here."

In administration, Kristina Szobocsan was hired as assistant principal at Warwick High School and will replace Scott Galen, who resigned. Szobocsan will be officially introduced to the community in July. Currently, she serves the School District of Lancaster in a similar position.

"We are very excited to get her on board," said Hershey.

More SCHOOL BOARD, page A15