Early numbers show $1.4 million deficit for 2013-14 Greencastle-Antrim School District budget

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Early numbers for the preparation of the 2013-14 Greencastle-Antrim School District budget shows a nearly $1.4 million shortfall between expected revenues and proposed expenditures. Some of the expected deficit could be made up with a property tax increase, however officials will likely have to look into cuts that can be made in what the district spends.

The school board heard the news on the initial numbers for the future budget at a work session Thursday evening.

Jolinda Wilson, the district business manager, has recommended the district apply to the state for approval to have the option of covering part of the deficit by raising real estate taxes by just over 3.8 mills. If the board were to decide to use the potential tax hike allowed, the spending plan would still show a just over $675,000 deficit.

A mandated timeline would require the board approve a tentative 2013-14 budget at its Feb. 7 meeting. Board members heard preliminary numbers from Wilson at the meeting. She accentuated that the numbers will change.

“This is a first pass,” she said. “These numbers will change. This is where we start.

“January information is not as good as May information.”

The board has until June 30 to pass a final budget.

The state sets an index for each school district that determines the upper limit for a property tax increase. Wilson advised the board to seek the state approval in order to provide for the possibility of using it to close some of the potential deficit.

Wilson said, “I want to apply for the exceptions to have flexibility when it comes to dealing with the budget.

“We can apply. That doesn’t mean the state will accept it. We don’t have to use it, but it provides flexibility.”

If the board were to increase real estate taxes by that 3.8 mills, it would mean an increase of $87.92 for the average taxpayer with an assessed property value of $22,980 in the district.

Wilson pointed out that around 80 percent of the expenditures, including salaries, benefits, debt service and special education, allow little wiggle room for change. Those expenses in 2013-14 include an 8 percent increase in employee insurance benefits and a 16 percent hike in the district’s payment into the employee retirement fund.

Wilson said the board could pursue outsourcing in order to seek cost-cutting measures. She advised that any such measures be recurring savings.