Bud­get to climb $5.9M

Re­tire­ment con­tri­bu­tions top ex­pen­di­ture hike

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By BREN­DAN WILLS

NOR­RIS­TOWN — The Nor­ris­town school board Thurs­day pre­sented its pro­posed pre­lim­i­nary bud­get for 2014-2015 with a $5.9 mil­lion in­crease in ex­pen­di­tures and a 6.035 per­cent prop­erty tax in­crease.

Al­though the in­creased ex­pen­di­tures would re­quire the tax in­crease to bal­ance, dis­trict of­fi­cials said they are con­fi­dent the full 6 per­cent in­crease will not be adopted in the fi­nal bud­get in June.

“There is no way our fi­nal bud­get will have a 6 per­cent tax in­crease,” said Anne Rohricht, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of the Nor­ris­town Area School Dis­trict. “We’ll work for the next few months to bring that down to some­thing rea­son­able.”

The in­crease in ex­pen­di­tures is due mainly to in­creases in em­ployee con­tri­bu­tion rates for the Penn­syl­va­nia School Em­ployee Re­tire­ment Sys­tem (PSERS) and ris­ing char­ter school ex­penses, ac­cord­ing to Rohricht.

PSERS em­ployer con­tri­bu­tion rates will in­crease from 16.9 per­cent to 21.4 per­cent for 2014-2015. Ac­cord­ing to the pre­lim­i­nary bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion, Nor­ris­town had $6.6 mil­lion in char­ter school costs in 2013-2014.

The $3,957,968 con­tract with CM3 Build­ing So­lu­tions to ren­o­vate the Ray S. Mus­sel­man Learn­ing Center, along with the cost of staffing the newly ac­quired build­ing, will also con­trib­ute to the in­crease in ex­pen­di­tures ac­cord­ing to Rohricht. The bud­get com­mit­tee has not yet

de­cided how to pay for staffing the build­ing.

With­out al­ter­na­tive sources of rev­enue and ac­cu­rate num­bers for state and fed­eral fund­ing, the board would have to hold a voter ref­er­en­dum or get per­mis­sion from the Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (PDE) to in­crease the prop­erty tax rate by 6.035 per­cent.

The ref­er­en­dum or PDE ap­proval would be re­quired to raise the tax be­yond the cap im­posed un­der Act 1, which is set at 2.4 per­cent for Nor­ris­town next year.

The pre­lim­i­nary bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion in­di­cated the board will seek PDE ap­proval to go above the 2.4 per­cent in­crease cap, but that the in­crease will not be as large as 6 per­cent.

With­out ac­cu­rate num­bers for state and fed­eral fund­ing, Rohricht said, it is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict what the fi­nal bud­get will look like.

“That’s what we’re go­ing to spend our time do­ing be­tween now and June. We need to bal­ance the needs of the pro­grams and the bur­den on the com­mu­nity,” Rohricht said.

Rohricht said the dis­trict is ded­i­cated to main­tain­ing the pro­grams nec­es­sary for a high- qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. Among those pro­grams Rohricht said were vi­tal to a healthy school dis­trict are the pre- K pro­grams, the full- day kinder­garten pro­gram, mu­sic, arts and for­eign lan­guages, as well as keep­ing class sizes small.

Ac­cord­ing to Rohricht, the pre­lim­i­nary bud­get ac­counts for new fund­ing for four ele­men­tary teach­ing po­si­tions, two English lan­guage learn­ing po­si­tions, three spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teach­ing po­si­tions, and staffing for the Mus­sel­man Early Learn­ing Center.

The pre­lim­i­nary bud­get has been on dis­play on the web­site and in dis­trict build­ings since the Jan. 13 bud­get com­mit­tee meet­ing.

The bud­get com­mit­tee and board will meet Feb. 10 to dis­cuss fur­ther the pro­posed pre­lim­i­nary bud­get, which is sched­uled to be adopted at the Feb. 18 board work ses­sion.

The pro­posed fi­nal bud­get is sched­uled to be ap­proved at the May 31 bud­get meet­ing and will be put on pub­lic dis­play fol­low­ing the ap­proval.

The fi­nal bud­get is sched­uled to be ap­proved at the June 23 board meet­ing.

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