Board mulls $1.2M sur­plus

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

LOWER POTTS­GROVE » With one ex­cep­tion, the school board has put off un­til af­ter the elec­tion de­ci­sions on what to do with a bud­get sur­plus of nearly $1.2 mil­lion.

The ex­cep­tion, which was the sub­ject of a unan­i­mous vote Oct. 24, is $375,000 which the cur­rent bud­get had an­tic­i­pated re­mov­ing from the PSERS re­tire­ment fund to help bal­ance this year’s bud­get.

That not be­ing nec­es­sary, the board voted to put it back into the re­tire­ment fund in what board mem­ber Rick Rabi­nowitz called “a no-brainer.”

Ac­cord­ing to Busi­ness Man­ager David Nester, the ex­act amount of the sur­plus is $1,173,000. Rabi­nowitz noted that the bud­get had an­tic­i­pated a $600,000 deficit for the year, so the amount over ex­pected bot­tom line is closer to $1.7 mil­lion.

Sev­eral fac­tors con­trib­uted to the sur­plus, ac­cord­ing to Nester.

Per­haps the largest and most un­ex­pected was rev­enue from the real es­tate trans­fer tax, which he said means many prop­er­ties changed own­ers in the past year.

Much of that, how­ever, was driven by the change in own­er­ship of the Up­land Square shop­ping cen­ter in West Potts­grove, which net­ted the school district about $264,000 in rev­enues.

An ad­di­tional $100,000 was also col­lected through the earned in­come tax, which af­ter a few years in­di­cates a trend of higher in­come that the district will be­gin to es­ti­mate up­wards in com­ing bud­gets, said Nester.

An­other nearly $300,000 comes from sav­ings in salary and ben­e­fits bud­get lines, said Nester.

A warm win­ter, cool spring and the ad­vent of so­lar pan­els on the ren­o­vated Potts­grove High School also pro­vided lower util­ity bills, said Nester.

Nester also had sev­eral sug­ges­tions for the sur­plus.

He noted that he re­cently made the board aware of the fact that the ac­count­ing soft­ware used by the district will be shut down in the com­ing year and a re­place­ment could cost as much as $200,000 when all is said and done.

He also noted that the district’s 10-year cap­i­tal plan calls for $10 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion worth of work, part of which is a new roof for Potts­grove Mid­dle School and a new air-con­di­tion­ing unit for West Potts­grove El­e­men­tary School — both of which are sched­uled for the next year and are es­ti­mated be­tween $3.5 mil­lion and

$4 mil­lion. Cur­rently, the district’s cap­i­tal reserve fund stands at $8.6 mil­lion.

How­ever, Rabi­nowitz said that in the past he has ar­gued that ma­jor fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions like this, so close to an elec­tion, should be de­cided by the new board that will have to live with the con­se­quences.

He made the same sug­ges­tion and board mem­ber Robert Lind­gren agreed and sub­se­quently, so did the rest of the board.

“Con­sid­er­ing this sur­plus, I hope the new board will make a com­mit­ment to the tax­pay­ers not to raise taxes next year,” said board mem­ber Bill Parker.

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