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Jim Thorpe board to tap reserve to balance budget

Published June 20. 2019 01:38PM

The Jim Thorpe School District board of directors will use money from the district’s reserve to balance a $2.9 million budget deficit in the coming school year.

School board members have pledged to keep a closer eye on expenses each month to try to minimize the size of the deficit.

The board voted 6-3 Wednesday night to approve final adoption of the 2019-20 budget.

Pearl Downs-Sheckler, Gerald Strubinger and Ronnie Marciante voted against the proposed budget.

The tax rate will remain at 45.52 mills for the eighth straight year.

A home valued at $100,000 and assessed at $50,000 would pay $2,276 in taxes.

The budget includes $46.7 million in expenses and $43.8 million in revenue. The board agreed to take $2.9 million from its fund balance in order to balance its spending.

Before the vote, board members said they are looking at ways to trim expenses so in future years they can balance the budget without a tax increase.

Strubinger said he voted no because the board should have cut more expenses before adoption.

Board member Glenn Confer said it’s easy to advocate for cutting expenses, and harder to actually find anything unnecessary in the budget to cut.

He pointed out that the current deficit of $2.9 million would require a 5-mill tax increase, about 10 percent, if the board cut nothing.

Board member Wilmer Redline said the board will watch its spending closer in 2019-20. They have already directed the business manager to prepare monthly budget to actual reports.

That was evident Wednesday night when the board considered a contract with Apple to continue the 1 to 1 laptop and iPad program. The board had a long discussion about possibly finding a cheaper vendor, but after urging from teachers and residents in the audience, they agreed to buy 1,000 new laptops and 1,000 new iPads for a total cost of $418,000 per year. That money was already in the budget. They expect to save some of that expense by selling the laptops which are currently in use.

The board’s auditor recently told them that if they continue to spend their fund balance at about $3 million per year, it will be gone in three to four years.

However, the auditor said that in 2017-18, when the district planned to use $5 million from the fund balance, the district ended up spending about $2 million less than expected. This year the board also allocated $5 million from its fund balance to balance the budget.

Business Manager Lauren Kovac said she expects the board to spend less than it has budgeted this year as well.

“I think we are talking about potential cuts, and we are hoping to not come in where we budgeted,” she said.

Board member Ronnie Marciante pointed out that this is not the first year that the board has passed a budget with a million-dollar deficit.

“The last five years we spent a $17.5 million deficit. Unfortunately we have to say the word no. That’s what we have to do,” Marciante said.

With JT reserves, they should do this the next few years. There should be no tax increase for minimum of 3 years.
JTSD has a large number of second homes, that pay taxes but draw no resources from the district. They still can’t balance a budget, though.

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