Jill & I have been working on making the budget numbers comprehensible and useful for the community discussions. A kind reader sent a link to the PA Department of Education page that shows the 2010-11 estimated and 2011-12 proposed state funding calculations for each school district. 

 

  Basic Education Funding Federal ARRA (stimulus) Total
2010-11* $7,889,041 $1,008,793 $8,897,834
2011-12** $8,047,006 $0 $8,047,006
Sums +$157,965 -$1,008,793 -$850,828

* Estimated

** Proposed

There are several ways to look at these numbers - we can say that the district knew that the ARRA money wasn't going to continue, should have planned for it, and should be grateful for the 2 percent basic education funding increase that the state is giving. Or we can look at it as Corbett's proposed budget cuts our education funding by $850K. You're welcome to debate that, but I'm in the more practical frame of "Oh, crap. This is where we are, what are we going to do?"

I put together some pretty charts based on the district's preliminary budget. The preliminary budget assumed that the state would provide $9,065,292, a 1.9 percent increase over last year. The basic education funding is only one part of the state's allocation to STSD, but we'll cover that in a bit. The preliminary budget shows $28.7 million in revenue, however, $1.6 million is from the reserve, which the school board & administration do not want to use because having a reserve improves our bond ratings and helps us get better interest rates on our loans. So instead of $28.7 million, they're really working with about $26,291,452.

 

 

Only 4 percent of the STSD budget comes from federal sources, and a large part of that is designated for special education services. Special education services are important because it helps more people become productive (i.e., taxpaying) citizens over their lifetimes. We're unsure what the Medicaid part is for.

 

Here's the most problematic chart. With the $850K loss, the state revenue drops to $13.3M. That drops basic education funding from 63% of the pie to 60% of the pie. 

 

And now we have the local sources of revenue. Until I made this chart, I didn't realize that the EIT was a relatively small part of local revenue. For as much paperwork and trouble as PAMS requires, you'd think it would be more worthwhile in the aggregate. "Earned income" only includes W-2, 1099 and business income. It doesn't include rental income, royalty income, dividends, interest or other investment income. A "personal income tax" includes those kinds of income. STSD has the option of switching to a PIT. Workers who don't live in the district are not subject to our EIT.

There are two major issues with the property taxes:

1. Tioga County has not perfomed a (successful) reassessment since 2001. As properties are improved or deteroriate over time or locations change in value, this outdated assessment skews the data. Currently the district taxes property at a rate of 14.2412 mills for Tioga County and 14.4366 mills for Lycoming County. A mill is an amount of tax per thousand currency units of property value. If we called it a percent, it would be 1.4%, in permille it's 14, we're just moving the decimal point over one and calling it something else. For Tioga County property assessed at $100,000, the tax is $1424.

2. Oil & gas interests in property are not taxed, unlike coal, limestone, or other things we mine. This is due to a 2002 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case that held counties may no longer assess it. 

So, we've got all this new economic activity going on with the gas wells but no increase in local revenues.

 

 

Where does the money go? Here are the preliminary budget numbers. Compare that to the $26.2M estimated revenue and we're seeing a $2.6M deficit. Support services includes the district administration (superintendent, director of human resources, business manager, five principals and their secretaries), but also includes the paraprofessionals in the classroom and janitorial staff. Here at SOS, we believe the paraprofessionals are real assets in the classroom and faciliate learning for all students. 

We can also look at the expense numbers across budget lines (thanks to Laura Perry, business manager, for this breakdown):

2011/12 Preliminary Budget
Salaries 13,517,652*
Benefits 6,019,147
Professional Services 655,244
Purchased Property 34,500
Utility Services & Energy 707,941
Contracted Services 157,750
Lease of Equipment 198,233
Transportation 1,302,630
Insurance 162,306
Communications 87,923
Advertising 24,787
Tuition 683,223
Travel 77,735
Other Misc. Purch Srvc 30,370
Supplies 702,868
Equipment 0
Dues/Fees 28,450
Bond Interest 1,429,961
Bond Principle 1,510,000
Fund Transfers 710,500
Total 28,041,220*

*I'd like to see this broken down by professional staff, administration & business, paraprofessionals, other staff.

**I have no idea why this is not $28.8M. I'll try to ask Laura in the next set of questions we ask her. Things are changing very rapidly and our expense numbers may be as out-of-date as our preliminary budget income numbers.

To be very thorough, I would want to compare the 2010-11 expense numbers to the 2011-12 expense numbers and see where things changed. Some increased costs are from inflation, some are contractual (like teacher pay & benefits), some are bigger (like health insurance and deferred pension payments). 

So what's next? According to our most recent communication with Laura, at this moment, the district is expecting a $2.1M deficit, not $2.6.

1. Will the teachers accept a pay freeze? They want guarantees that paraprofessionals and student activities won't be cut. That's -$469K. The district is seeking "sustainable" changes to the budget - I'm not convinced this is more than a one-year trick. 

2. Will the board make the $1.3M in cuts that the administration proposed at the last meeting? Those are the hard ones with cuts to paraprofessionals, janitors, teachers, and student activities. ($2.1M - $1.3M - $469K = $331K deficit left)

3. Will the governor's budget proposal be enacted? When Jill met with Sen. Scarnati a couple weeks ago, he urged districts to wait as long as possible before passing their budgets. The Corbett budget proposal is just that, a proposal, and needs to go through the machinations of the state legislature before becoming official and reliable numbers. He suggested that we, as constituents, should be calling, mailing & faxing the governor to tell him we support public education funding, and providing support to Sen. Scarnati & Rep. Baker as they work on this issue. I'd like the district to advertise for another meeting before their May 31 budget-submission deadline.

4. We need to help the district understand our vision of the district and what we value. Please attend one of the community discussions that Jill is facilitating this week. 

5. We can donate money to the district. Use the "Donate" button to the left.

Stay tuned! 

Note: The opinions expressed in this post are mine and are not necessarily shared by the board or membership of Save Our Schools. 

About Heidi I. Jones
Heidi
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