Warwick School District facing $3.9 million deficit

By on April 6, 2016



Cost of in-school police officer will besplit between district and municipalities

By Laura Knowles

With the 2016-17 budget set to be presented at the May 17 meeting of the Warwick School Board, the school district is working in a world of unknowns.

At the April 5 committee of the whole meeting, district business manager Nathan Wertsch reported that the key word for the 2016-17 budget is “uncertainty.” But that is not any different than the 2015-16 budget, which was impacted by the Pennsylvania budget impasse. While the state budget stalemate is finally over, Wertsch reminded the board that there is no fiscal code in place.

He also reported that for 2016-17, the district is looking at a $3,912,000 deficit, which is the result of revenues being $67,219,195 and expenses being $71,131,196.

For the 2015-16 budget, the deficit is $2,892,729, with revenues of $64,846,822 and expenses of $67,739,551.

To add more uncertainty to the mix, the district does not have a collective bargaining agreement in place with teachers for the 2016-17 school year, and a new budget will need to be approved by June 21.

Warwick highWertsch noted that among the growing expenses for the district are healthcare, debt service, retirements, salaries, and transportation. Costs for the district are expected to keep rising, even though enrollment has declined by 500 students since 2008-09. The district continues to evaluate positions when teachers retire or resign to determine if they need to be filled.

One area where Warwick School District does not want to scrimp is in safety. At the meeting, Robin Felty, assistant superintendent, presented a plan for a School Resource Officer, or SRO, who would serve as a safety and security officer mainly at the high school and middle school.

Last year, the district applied for a grant that would have covered most of the expenses for an SRO. Felty and other school officials were disappointed to learn that they did not receive the grant, but they plan to apply again.

In the meantime, after working with Lititz Borough Police, the school district hopes to proceed with implementing an SRO in partnership with the borough. If the expenses can be covered in the upcoming 2016-17 budget, the plan would call for an SRO who receives salary and benefits of $80,000.

The borough and school district would share that cost. Half of the cost ($40,000) would be covered by the borough, along with potential contributions from other municipalities in the school district (Warwick and Elizabeth townships). The remaining amount would need to be budgeted by school district.

Sergeant Kerry Nye of the Lititz Police Department attended the meeting and reported that an officer was already trained as an SRO, with another officer as backup. Officer Peter Savage has completed his training, and would serve as SRO for the school district. He would work Monday through Friday during the school year at the high school and middle school, with some coverage at elementary schools. He would also provide coverage at larger special events, like prom and sports championships.

“He would still be a borough employee,” said Nye, adding that Savage would likely work hours during the summer at the police department.

Felty reported that having an SRO was important to school security, and would offer many vital advantages, such as providing safety related training, developing school safety plans and procedures, being a police presence in the schools, providing a positive role model, and serving as a catalyst to bring the school and community together. The SRO has completed training to assist in situations such as child abuse, adolescent stress, and students with special needs.

The board is expected to review implementation of an SRO on site at the secondary schools at the April 19 school board meeting.

The district is also looking at installing panic buttons in all six schools, which would be available in strategic locations to notify authorities of an emergency situation. The duel release buttons would alert police and other emergency personnel with a silent alarm. Felty noted that this alarm system was another component in the district’s commitment to safety.

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

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