The Warren School Board has finalized their 2016-2017 budget, which has increased 3 percent from last year’s budget.
At the board’s January 19 meeting, $2,543,025 was the agreed upon number, up from $2,417,372 in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The board deliberated between two options — one that cuts Warren School’s third preschool classroom and stays within the spending cap imposed by Act 46 and one that keeps the third class while exceeding the cap.
The board agreed to keep their third preschool class and bear the burden of the penalty, which principal Beth Peterson said was surprisingly small. Although they would have stayed within the spending cap had they cut the third classroom, they would have had to hire an additional classroom assistant for the two remaining classes, Peterson said. The school would also have to pay to tuition those students who exceeded the enrollment numbers for two classes to attend elsewhere. The cost difference between these two options was $15,000 on the bottom line.
Board member Alycia Biondo said that Warren School has a great preschool program and that the board realized that when adding a third class it would take years to realize the financial benefits.
The penalty for exceeding the spending cap is $96 per student, which comes out to $14,107 for the coming year. Spending per student was already 3 percent higher than last year—from $13,607 to $14,012. The Act 46 cap mandates that Warren School cannot spend more than $13,916 per student for the coming year.
The new budget contains $100,500 in cuts, such as a third- and fourth-grade teacher as well as a math consultant, whose salaries totaled $76,000. The faculty cut was based on seniority and, Peterson said, happened to be in a grade in which student enrollment was especially low.
The budget also makes several cuts to programming and materials, but Peterson said that the new figures more accurately reflect spending from last year, during which a balance was held at the year’s end in each category. For example, technology was cut $7,500 even though many Chromebooks were purchased last year with federal grant money that equaled this amount.
Similarly, the budget has cut $5,000 in professional development, $3,000 in books, $6,000 in field trips and $3,000 in music lessons.
Overall spending is up 5.2 percent for the new year, with a 7.9 percent increase in health care costs, a 3.2 percent increase in contractual wages throughout the supervisory union and Peterson said that the school must pay a mentor to work with her for her first two years as new principal.
The budget does not yet include Warren’s deficit, which is estimated at $150,000, but Peterson said that the board will have an exact number by July 30 of this year, along with options of how to pay it off within a period of several years. The cost of repairs that Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe told the Warren School they must complete within the year will also be added to this deficit. The board is currently in the process of selecting a contracting company who will carry out the work.