Greencastle-Antrim School Board eyes budget realities

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim board of school directors pondered financial issues Thursday, Jan. 7. Shannon Yates, Eric Holtzman, Paul Politis, Lura Hanks, Jim Winslow, Tracy Baer, Linda Farley, Brian Hissong and Mike Still unanimously approved a resolution to not increase 2016-2017 taxes above the district’s adjusted index of 3.1 percent. If they did not pass the resolution, they had to adopt the preliminary budget by Jan. 21, said business manager Jolinda Wilson.

Wilson told the board she preferred the district keep a $5 million fund balance, and raising mills slightly each year was a good idea.

“If it is zero, we can never make that up,” she said.

The G-ASD real estate levy is currently 103.15 mlls. No tax increase would bring in $19.2 million in revenue, and the district would have to pull $1.7 million from reserves, leaving only $2.8 million.

Wilson said a three mill increase would cost the average taxpayer an additional $75. Though not under consideration, to balance the budget, the board would have to raise taxes nine mills. Anything above that required a citizen referendum, and she said, “They always fail.”

Wilson reported that under Gov. Tom Wolf’s line item veto of the state budget, the district in December received $5 million owed in state funding.

When asked if the payment included interest, she replied, “That would be zero.”

Because Pennsylvania’s budget has still not been passed, she did not know when the rest of the funding would come.

Kevin Stouffer from Smith Elliott Kearns and Company presented the 2014-2015 financial audit results. The general fund balance had increased slightly to $4.9 million during that year.

Because of new federal regulations, the audit had to show the status of the underfunded pension contributions for public employees.

"The GASB 68 Pension Standard is a large liability, consistent with every school district in Pennsylvania,” Stouffer said. “Greencastle is underfunded $50 million, its share of the state liability.”

Though everyone was aware schools were hit hard by the mandated PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) contributions, the numbers had to be revealed for transparency, he added.

One positive point was that salaries were down three percent, due to the outsourcing of bus drivers, said Stouffer.

In other business, the professional staff transfer of Daniel Barrett from high school technology education teacher to district guidance counselor was approved.