Hatboro-Horsham School District Faces $2 Million Budget Shortfall
A steady drop in revenues, coupled with rising health care and pension costs contribute to the shortage
Against the backdrop of a $2 million shortfall projected for the 2011-2012 spending plan, the Hatboro-Horsham School Board on Tuesday announced that it would return to formal teacher contract negotiations and a commitment to “establishing an agreement that is fair to teachers, yet fiscally responsible.”
Following a presentation of the $86.9 million budget by Director of Business Affairs Robert Reichert, Superintendent Curtis Griffin said the district would take a hard look at its programs over the next few months to determine how the funding gap could be rectified. The programs that are “very important to the success of our students” would be maintained, he said.
“The reality is there will be furloughs and there will be demotions,” Griffin said to a standing-room-only crowd of parents and teachers.
Reichert painted a bleak budgetary picture made so through a series of issues, including a continual decline in revenues totaling $1.8 million over the last six years; escalating health insurance and pension costs; and the state’s Act 1 index, which requires tax increases for next school year to be at or below 1.4 percent, or $800,000.
Griffin said he plans to meet with staff individually over the next month to outline how their roles may be impacted. Monthly budget updates will follow until its planned preliminary adoption on May 16, he said. Final adoption is slated for June.
In a prepared statement read after Reichert’s presentation, School Board President Barbara LaSorsa said the board has decided to resume formal negotiations with the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association, the union representing the district’s more than 400 teachers.
“During formal negotiations, both parties sit down, along with their respective professional negotiators, in face-to-face meetings to exchange written proposals,” LaSorsa said. “The informal sessions that have been held over the last six months were productive and helped us bridge some of the gaps in our respective proposals, but we are still without an agreement. While the union leadership did explain that members rejected our informal offer primarily due to changes we proposed for health care, it did so without committing to an actual counter-proposal and suggested alternatives that the district simply cannot afford.”
Returning to the formal process opens the door to third-party involvement, as well as the option of a state mediator, initiating arbitration or the inclusion of a fact finder, she said.
Jackie Anderson, president of the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association refused comment Tuesday night.
Chris Dubil, whose two children attend school in the district, said the board’s latest offer was “more than sufficient.”
“I think (teachers) should step up and accept what’s offered,” Dubil said, adding that the ongoing stalemate has negatively impacted students’ activities. His daughter’s play, for example has been scheduled and rescheduled. “Things aren’t happening. It makes me feel pretty horrible.”