Board of education to vote on budget Monday

The Whitehall Board of Education will consider Monday a budget that increases spending but stays within the two-percent tax cap.

Business Manager Joe Karas said the district has put together a preliminary budget for the 2014-2015 school year that, if approved, would increase spending by approximately 5 percent.

Karas said the money would be used to address academic issues. He said officials are eyeing the reinstatement of some positions that have been eliminated in previous years as well as the creation of additional positions.

Over the past several years, a combination of dwindling state aid and declining enrollment has forced officials to eliminate or reduce a number of positions. According to the Department of Education, the district employed more than 140 teachers and teacher aid positions during the 2008-09 school year. This year, the district has just more than 100 positions. Although student enrollment has declined nearly 9 percent during that time, the number of academic staff has been reduced at a greater rate.

Karas said the district is also being proactive when its looks at its non-instructional positions.

“We’re determining how we can more efficiently run those positions,” he said.

For example the business office has absorbed some of the responsibilities of a high school secretary who resigned. The savings realized from those positions could be used to hire additional instructional staff.

Like all other districts in Washington County, Whitehall will see an increase in state aid.

“We were very lucky, we got a nice bump in state aid,” he said.

 The district will receive approximately $800,000 more in state aid next year then it received this year. All told, the district is set to receive nearly $8.5 million in state aid. Next year’s budget totals approximately $14.7 million.

After factoring in allowable exemptions, the district has a tax cap of 2.5 percent, although based on preliminary numbers the district is eyeing a 1.88 percent increase in the tax levy.

Officials will present the preliminary budget to the board of education on Monday night and if approved, will host a public hearing on the spending plan later this month. The board is required to approve a budget by April 25.

The public will vote on the spending plan on May 20.




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