PERRYOPOLIS — In a preliminary look at its operational budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, Frazier School District could face a deficit.
While several budgetary figures remain unknown, district business manager Kevin Mildren said static state and federal funding and an increase in expenditures of about $410,000 could force the district to once again turn to its tax base to cover a shortfall.
“We continue to chase revenues,” said Mildren. “Without any help from the federal or state government, we are going to be looking again, unfortunately, to the local tax base.”
The school board in January voted to not exceed the state index for millage, but the board could still vote to raise taxes up to the index rate at a maximum increase of 0.6176 mills, Mildren said, which would generate between $164,000 and $182,413 in additional revenue.
The current tax rate for the district is 18.7149 mills.
While the budget is in a “very preliminary” phase — Mildren did not wish to provide revenue or deficit estimates — expenditures are expected to total $18.5 million, a 2.7 percent increase over the current-year budget.
The largest increase in the budget comes in the form of employee salaries, which are expected to rise 2.8 percent, comprising nearly two-thirds of the district’s anticipated expenses.
Costs for general education and the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the latter of which has trended high in recent years, are expected to increase less than 1 percent.
However, Mildren said, the district does not expect to receive increases to its state or federal subsidies next year to help cover rising expenditures.
“I wish the state would step up and recognize the fact that public education is underfunded grossly. Without the state stepping up, there are really no other alternatives for revenues than taxes,” said Mildren.
“It’s unfortunate because the state has taken public education and stripped it down to its bare form and said, ‘Look, you want to grow, you want to spend — you raise the property taxes.’
“Unfortunately, our tax base is very small.”
The district has increased millage each of the last six years by a cumulative total of 5.3849 mills, a 40 percent rise since 2012. Over that time, the district’s general fund budget has risen from $14.7 million to $18 million.
Mildren said the district is on budget for the current fiscal year through February and could possibly finish the year with a considerable fund balance that could help offset any deficit that occurs in the next budget.