Peters Township School District administration building

Peters Township School District’s administration building

Peters Township School Board has approved a proposed final general fund budget for 2020-21 that includes provisions for a .35-mill real estate tax increase.

The rate would rise to 14.16 mills, representing a 2.54% increase that falls within the index of 2.6% established under the parameters of state Act 1 of 2006. For an owner of property with an assessed value of $300,000, the new rate means paying an extra $105.

Figures in the proposed budget, which passed unanimously Monday, show a gap of $685,747 in estimated revenues, with the tax increase taken into consideration, compared with what the district expects to spend during the coming school year.

Expenditures are projected at nearly $70.79 million. The district reported an unassigned fund balance of $1.24 million from which to draw as a means of making up the difference prior to the final budget’s required adoption by June 30.

Board members and administrators will continue to work between now and then on making adjustments in budget numbers, a process that is complicated this year by COVID-19.

One area of concern addressed at the board meeting, which was conducted virtually and made available online the following day, is the potential impact of the pandemic on funding the district receives from the state, which is budgeted at $16.74 million.

“As of right now, we have not received any additional information on that. It’s hitting them at a bad time in the budget process, also,” business manager Brad Rau said. “We haven’t heard anything negative about ’20-21. We do know that it will probably end up having a bigger impact when we go to our budget for ’21-22.”

The Rev. Jamison Hardy, who chairs the school board finance committee, has been working with Rau and Thomas McMurray, board president, on keeping up to date with figures for 2020-21.

“We’ve gone through a number of different scenarios. We’ve looked at how revenue is going to be affected on our end,” he said, but they are awaiting specifics regarding the state budget, which also is to be adopted prior to the start of July.

“If you remember a couple of years ago, they delayed that thing all the way to the end. So this situation is very fluid, as you well know. But I’m very comfortable with what we’ve done to prepare for the impacts that we have in this budget,” Hardy said.

“I think this number reflects very closely what we can control.”

Part of the process has involved reviewing the impact of the recession of 2008-09 on Peters Township revenues.

“Our earned income, it didn’t grow that year, but it didn’t move back. It kind of just leveled off. So that was good news,” Rau said, reporting a similar situation with real estate taxes. “We didn’t really see any decrease in collections.”

The recession did have a negative impact on revenues form the local real estate transfer tax, and according to Rau, the amount was down significantly for this April because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are going to have to keep an eye on all our revenues,” he said. “I would say this coming year is going to be a year where we’re going to have to have more touch points, especially early on, to see where our revenues are trending.”

Also with regard to COVID-19, school board member Lisa Anderson inquired about a further possibility of financial impact.

“To the extent we go back to school, how are you accounting for any possibility of increased expenses?” she said.

“I’m guessing that if you needed masks and somebody came without a mask, you’d have to buy masks and those sorts of things.”

Rau said that such considerations have not yet been taken into account.

“We’re not done working on the budget,” Rau said. “We will be making some tweaks to that, and like every year, we’ll do our best to try to come up with everything we can think of that we will need. It may be a little harder to get through those numbers this year, but we’ll keep trying.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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