School district anticipates tax increase

By on May 3, 2017

The Warwick School District presented its preliminary budget report card at the May 2 school board committee of the whole meeting.

The projected revenue for the 2017-18 budget is $70,766,134, while the expenses are projected at $71,633,474. According to Warwick School District business manager Nathan Wertsch, 68 percent of the budget covers salaries and employee benefits, at more than $48 million.

To cover the increase in costs over last year, a tax increase of 3 percent with a millage rate of 21.3698 is anticipated for the 2017-18 school year. That means that the property taxes on a median assessed home value of $146,700 would increase by $91.31.

Wertsch reported that it doesn’t look like Pennsylvania will adopt tax reform to shift from property tax to income tax for the 2017-18 school year. It will most likely remain as real estate tax for the upcoming year.

The new property assessments throughout the county are another variable that makes the budget more complicated for next year.

Although Warwick School District tax payers can expect school taxes to increase, Wertsch pointed out that there are several positive factors that should mitigate budget increases.

In regard to revenue, earned income tax collections are above prior years, interest earnings are likely to double over last year and basic education funding in higher than budgeted. However, the transportation subsidy will be less than the budget.

In terms of expenses, favorable factors include healthcare costs that are significantly lower than the budget, special education placements, cyber charter school payments, textbooks, supplies, utilities and replacement equipment.

“On the revenue side, the majority of the budget increases is due to local revenue as we receive little to no help from state or federal sources,” said Wertsch.

Compared to other school districts in the county, Warwick’s 20.7474 millage rate for 2017-18 is the fifth highest. Other higher millage rates are in Columbia, School District of Lancaster, Cocalico and Donegal. Pupil spending in Warwick is the ninth highest of the 22 school districts UI13.

 

Fred Griffiths, director of technology, discussed the progress in that area.

“The emphasis will be on the four Cs,” said Griffiths, explaining that the four Cs are Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking.

These are values that will be needed by students in the 21st century. They will translate into effectiveness in employment and within the community.

Technology is an integral component in four Cs-based education. The goal in the Warwick School District is to equip every student in the district with personal learning devices by the 2019-20 school year. These devices would not replace classroom learning, but would supplement it. For 2017-18, 1,239 new devices would be provided to students in three grade levels. In 2018-19, another three grade levels would receive devices. Much of the funding for these devices has been provided by the Warwick Education Foundation.

According to Wertsch, the district is having a sound financial year this year and is in a position to mitigate the budgeted deficit due to both revenue and expense favorability.

“As we look to future budgets, it is important for the Finance & Legal Committee and school board to weigh the balance of fund balance use, revenue generation, and expense mitigation, especially in light of the current feasibility study and long-range planning,” said Wertsch.

The next step in the 2017-18 budget process will be the adoption of the proposed final budget at the May 16 Warwick School Board meeting. The proposed final budget is currently posted on the Warwick School District website at www.warwicksd.org. The deadline to publish the notice of intent to adopt the final budget will be June 10. Final adoption is set for the June 20 Warwick School Board meeting.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick School Board beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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