H-H School District Facing $1.7M Budget Gap
Officials said more tweaks will be made before the spending plan is adopted in June.
Citing uncertainties in federal and state funding, as well as a roughly $3 million increase in salaries, benefits, retirement system costs and special education programs, officials on Tuesday night presented the Hatboro-Horsham School District’s 2012-2013 budget.
As presented, the $86.6 million preliminary spending plan has a $1.7 million shortfall. Even if the board opts to raise taxes in June as part of the budget approval process, the Act 1 allowance of 1.7 percent would only generate an estimated $997,974, officials said, leaving the district with a $709,304 gap.
“We’re going to continue to dissect every area,” Bob Reichert, the district’s director of business affairs said. “It’s going to be a busy six months. We’ll get there.”
Superintendent Curtis Griffin said teacher furloughs could be part of the budget-balancing process, as was the case last year when one full-time position and five part-time positions were furloughed.
“It’s our goal not to furlough anyone,” Griffin said, noting that it is better to make needed reductions through attrition. Positions left open from retirements last year were, in some cases, filled with a long-term substitute teacher rather than the following year potentially furloughing a contracted employee, he said. “Are there ways that we can make due with the resources we have in-house?”
As outlined Tuesday, some of the notable increased costs include:
- $660,310 for medical and dental insurance
- $908,028 for professional, administrative and support staff salaries
- $130,145 for special education
- $1,390,430 for the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) — a state pension provided to retired educators.
Reichert said real estate assessment appeals have posed problems for the district’s revenue stream as well. Of 75 recent appeals, 39 were successful he said, which will generate nearly $100,000 less for the district. Annually, he said the district is losing $2.4 million in local revenues since the economic downturn.
In terms of reigning in the budget, Reichert said he would look to put in place “cost-saving strategies,” including possibly self-funding district employees’ health insurance; considering plan design changes that would maintain health insurance benefit levels, while saving money; and combining life insurance with disability insurance.
A cost-saving measure implemented this school year, a five-district transportation consortium comprised of Upper Dublin, Lower Moreland, North Penn and Wissahickon school districts, will be used on a “much smaller scale” and will have a “very minimum number of runs,” Reichert said.
The cooperative was plagued with problems at the outset, including students being kept on extraordinarily long bus rides and early in the school year, Hatboro-Horsham went back to busing in-house.
Officials had projected that the multi-district cooperative to bus the combined 3,700 students to non-public schools would shave an estimated 20 percent off of the $10 million that was previously spent on transportation costs.