Budget to climb $5.9M
Retirement contributions top expenditure hike
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.