WCSD facing harsh financial reality as budget process continues

Times Observer file photo The Warren County School District can’t tax itself out of a multi-million dollar budget deficit. That much was clear in the wake of discussions the school board held on Monday night.

The Warren County School District can’t tax itself out of a budget deficit as discussion continues on the 2024-25 spending plan.

WCSD Director of Business Services Jim Grosch said during Monday’s committee meetings that revenues for next budget year are projected at $88.58 million, assuming the full revenues that Gov. Josh Shapiro pitched in state funding back in February.

“If those numbers don’t come to fruition, that number could be lower by $700,000 to $1.5 million,” he said.

The expenditure side? That’s currently set at $93 million with $1.45 million in budget reductions the board recommended by going through an adds and cuts process.

Items proposed to be cut including staff – teaching positions, a social worker and psychologist, among others – as well as program cuts to technology, textbooks, supplies, a proposed electronics program at the Warren County Career Center and the elimination of the late bus run.

“As directors, we were all given (direction) to present tier cuts,” Dr. Patricia Mead, the district’s director of pupil services, said. “With these cuts and the ratings… we are losing mental health services for the non-disabled population. Forty-eight percent of students that have services will no longer have services.”

Some of the items proposed for cuts that didn’t receive strong support from the board included a projected $420,000 for shifting to a four-day school week, $1.235 million by shifting all 10-12 grade students to Warren Area High School as well as proposals to move all grade 9-12 students to WAHS and Youngsville High School in one proposal and WAHS and Eisenhower Middle High School in another.

Even with the $1.45M of agreed-upon cuts, Grosch said that the district’s “surplus deficit” is $4.5 million.

He outlined that the maximum allowable tax increase – 4..2995 mills – would only generate an additional $1.7 million.

“Even still with that revenue generation,” Grosch siad, “It still leaves us at a deficit” of $2.8 million.

It would take seven additional mills to balance the budget.

The maximum increase would see the property tax bill for an individual owning a home assessed at $120,000 market value increase by $21.50 per month, though the average value of a home in Warren County is significantly under that number.

Board President Paul Mangione said that this marks the first time where the four-day week proposal or transferring grades to one high school were detailed in this process.

“I guess, if nothing else, now we can see what that does for our budget,” he said. “We already know where things are headed with our budget. We need to decide out of those tough decisions, which ones we want to look at more” between now and the 2025-2025 budget process.

“Part of the predicament we’re in is based on the tax base,” Board member Kevin Lindvay said. “32 percent of the property is forest property” where no taxes are collected.

He called that “real eye opening for me year-over-year.”

Board member John Wortman blamed the district’s current four high school configuration for some of the challenges.

“I share my deep disappointment that we have a possibility to save taxpayers just over $1.2 million by moving all grades 10-12 to Warren Area High School and rather than elect that option we are going to look at removing from the budget, personnel… resources for our students and programming,” he said. “I will not support that. Our budget situation projected for the next few years may be even more difficult than the one we currently face. How much more are we willing to take away from students for four high schools?”

Mangione also said he wanted to be “very clear” that the budget picture doesn’t show 1-2 mill increases every year.

“We’re talking about tax increases of four to six mills every year,” he said.

The district plans to act on a proposed final budget by the end of May.

Grosch said administration typically comes to that meeting with a recommendation on the millage.

“Unless the board decisively tells us not to bring any millage increase, we are going to do the same as we always do,” he said, stressing to the board that a proposal for the max increase is “not set in stone” even at that point.


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