The Parkland School Board approved the first step in its budget process Tuesday night with the passage of a preliminary budget. While this will not be the final budget passed in June, it is a required step in the budget planning process.
This budget includes a 5.82 percent millage increase based on new reassessments of property values in Lehigh County. Under Act 1, Parkland is not able to pass a final budget with a tax increase over 4.35 percent and Superintendent Richard Sniscak vowed that the administration will do everything possible to pass a final budget with a tax increase even lower than the allowed rate. The board also approved Parkland to file for exceptions in the Act 1 mandated tax rate to cover the rising costs of special education and distributions to Public School Employees' Retirement System.
The proposed budget for the 2013-2014 school year contains a 5.76 percent increase in budget expenditures but there will also be multiple cost saving initiatives. Such initiatives include personnel and benefit reductions; last year, Parkland eliminated 55 positions and teachers agreed to a pay freeze. Other cost saving measures include energy savings from a new gas line and reduction in student activities via salary, equipment and supplies cuts.
Sniscak lauded the staff for their creative solutions in previous budget cuts, but lamented that further staff reductions will be planned this year. This reduction will likely increase class size and decrease course and program offerings.
To combat cuts, Parent Teacher Organizations, the PSD Education Foundation and booster clubs have begun fundraising and volunteer initiatives. In its first year, the PSD Education Foundation raised $130,000, $70,000 of which went to the school district for programs in the 2012-2013 school year. A new advertising program was able to generate more than $40,000 for the past school year and is expected to expand in the coming year.
As this is still early in the budget process, there are a great deal of unknown factors. The proposed state budget by Governor Corbett has tied additional school funding to a change in the state pension system. Parkland is also facing appeals from large, industrial properties that could result in $2 million negative revenue if all appeals are lost. Those appeals may not be decided until after June.
There will be a budget seminar in April before the proposed final budget goes before the board ad on June 7, the final proposed budget will be mailed to all taxpayers in the Parkland School District newsletter before its final approval by the board on June 25.