The financial picture for the Greencastle-Antrim School District was one component of a state-of-the-district presentation Tuesday night.
Between 70 and 80 people attended the session in the high school auditorium, including school board members, administrators, teachers and the public. The meeting was held amid ongoing negotiations with the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association and Monday night's announcement that the teachers will strike on April 4 unless a contract agreement is reached.
The meeting concluded with a prayer from a member of the audience who declined to provide his name, asking for "supernatural intervention" and "great ideas" because "Father, we need your help. Help us, Lord."
Some of the numbers
Revenue uncertainties, financial projections, state funding inequities, cuts and needs were among the topics.
Jolinda "JC" Wilson, chief financial officer, said variables on the revenue side of the budget include real estate tax collection rates, earned income and real estate transfer taxes, state funding fluctuations, reimbursement for debt service and donations.
State funding and the impact of the "hold harmless" formula that actually harms the district were discussed by Jim Winslow, board president.
The calculation is based on old numbers and benefits most districts, which have declining enrollments, while G-A has grown by about 50 percent since 1990 to above 3,000 today.
The per pupil district basic education subsidy ranges from $1,891 in G-A, the lowest in Franklin County, to $3,257 in Tuscarora, the highest.
Winslow said the state is short-changing the district by 6 percent — $2.2 million a year.
While Winslow encouraged people to contact lawmakers about the inequality, he admitted it is unlikely to change because 90 percent of lawmakers live in districts where hold harmless is beneficial.
The district's declining fund balance, which Wilson likened to an individual's savings account, also was presented. The fund balance stood at $5,264,570 in 2008 and $4,649,768 in 2017.
A projected deficit of $1.5 million at the end of 2017-18 will further tap the fund balance.
The proposed increases for teachers in the fact-finder's report would cost just under $2 million over four years, leaving the district with a $1.1 million fund balance at the end of the contract, Winslow said.
Winslow said the board recognizes the value of the teachers, but "where would we be able to squeeze out $2 million over four years?"
Wilson and Winslow both touched on belt-tightening moves the district has made in recent years, ranging from outsourcing transportation, maintenance and substitutes, to cutting positions and programs.
Some teachers have been added, according to Wilson, but the district still needs more for K-8 intervention, classrooms depending on enrollment and counseling.
Also on the needs list are technology, security upgrades and a district office.
"Why would the teachers want to go on strike and punish students and punish us when the state is shorting us and the district raises taxes to the max?" asked audience member Travis Young.
He said according to the slides the kids are doing well and the teachers are paid well.
"If you want more, move. Be happy with what you've got," said Young, adding things could change if district revenues rise with more houses and businesses in the community.
Ellen Kirkner, president of the teachers association, said after the meeting, "We have different interpretations of the financial picture."
She added she thought it was a good meeting that continues the dialogue.
Kirkner also encouraged people to attend G-AEA's Teacher Talks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Life Center, 35 N. Carlisle St. There will be a short information session followed by questions from community members, coffee and discussion.
Other state-of-the-district information
Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent, started the evening with information on the goals for her first year as superintendent, developed with input from administrators, teachers, the school board and parents. They include:Increase the safety and security of students and staff. Increase academic achievement of students. Be an effective communicator who is honest and transparent. Complete the district’s comprehensive plan by Nov. 30.
Concerning academic achievement, math is an area especially in need of improvement, Trail noted.
That message was underscored by Dr. Bob Crider, chief educational officer, who went over building-by-building numbers on state assessment tests.
Across the board, the district's scores are above the state average. However, those numbers are low both for the state and the district when it comes to math. For example, in elementary testing 49.3 percent of G-A students were at the proficiency level in math, while the state average is 48.3.
By high school, the numbers for algebra climb to 76.4 percent for G-A and 65.6 for the state.
Note: The state-of-the-district report can be viewed under "Recent News" at the bottom of the home page on the website greencastle.k12.pa.us