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CASD: 'We won't need to borrow'

Written by Vicky Taylor, Public Opinion Online | Mar 25, 2016 4:00 PM
CASD-sign-Chambersburg-600x340.jpg

Photo by Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion Online

(Chambersburg) -- The end of the current Pennsylvania budget crisis will mean local school districts won't have to borrow money to keep the schools open, but Chambersburg Area School District Finance Director Steven Dart warns that belt tightening will continue to be a concern in the district.

"It's a big relief," he said of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's announcement this week that he won't veto the Republican-led legislature's latest budget. "Now that we are pretty certain we aren't going to have to borrow $20 million or more (to keep the district's schools open past April), we can concentrate on other problems, such as the $2.2 million deficit in our own budget."

Dart said although district officials don't know yet exactly how much state aid it will get under the Republican budget, he estimates that it will be about $200,000 less than was budgeted when last year's board-approved the 2015-16 budget.

He said the district should know the exact figure by the end of the month, or at least no later than the first week of April.

"Regardless, if the governor does what he says he is going to do (and lets the budget pass without his signature), we won't have to borrow (money) and that's a big relief," he said.

He said the district does need to keep current austerity measures in place, however.

Those include a hiring moratorium put in place in December, and more recently asked the administration to look at tightening up on expenses such as copying costs and classroom supplies as much as possible.

The board also looked at opening and staffing the new Marion Elementary School this year, finally deciding to open it as a one-deep school and transferring teachers from other schools to staff it, but waiting until money wasn't so tight to completely fill the two-deep building.

"The brakes are on and I'm recommending they stay on," Dart said Wednesday night.

Board member Bill Lennartz, who heads the board's finance committee, agreed.

"It looks like we are not going to have to borrow funds to stay afloat, but what it doesn't mean is that we can go out and spend," he said.

The current budget has a built-in deficit of $2.2 million, but Dart said the district has a reserve of about $7 million so it will still be able to pay its bills this year.

Although the school district won't know at least until sometime next week exactly how much it will get in state aid as a result of allocations in the new Republican budget, Dart estimates it will probably fall about $200,000 below what is budgeted, since when the district approved the budget last year it was based on Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposals last spring.

To top the situation off, Dart said the district still doesn't know how the 2016-17 state budget will play out, or if the district will again be thrown into a position where another crisis develops like this year's where funding will be withheld while the governor and legislature bicker over a final budget.

The district must complete and pass its 2016-17 budget by June 30 whether or not the state has a fiscal year budget in place at that time. CASD has already started the budget process, even though it still hasn't got full funding for the current year.

In spite of those factors, CASD's board voted in December to keep any potential 2016-17 tax increase to a maximum of three percent.

Vicky Taylor, 717-262-4754

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF. 

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