USC School Board approves preliminary budget
While still in its early stages, the Upper St. Clair School Board gave preliminary approval to the district’s $79,078,568 draft budget for the 2017-18 school year at its Feb. 13 meeting.
“Approval of this preliminary budget for the purpose of Act 1 is actually an official starting point of the district’s budget deliberations,” Superintendent Patrick T. O’Toole said, adding the final 2017-18 budget will be presented to the board for a vote in May and should be approved in June. “Throughout the next three months, we will be working diligently to explore and analyze opportunities for cost-savings and efficiencies.”
In accordance with the Act 1 of 2006, all Pennsylvania school districts had the option of passing a preliminary budget or adopting a resolution to stay within the Act 1 Index. With the passage of the preliminary budget, Upper St. Clair could file for exceptions to raise taxes above the inflationary limit.
“Applying for exceptions does not commit the school district to raising taxes above the index or raising taxes at all,” O’Toole said. “At this point, it simply keeps all of our options open as state and federal funding levels are unknown at this stage in the budget process.”
At their Jan. 23 meeting, the school board adopted a resolution to raise taxes beyond the state Act 1 Index. Upper St. Clair’s Act 1 Index is capped at 2.5 percent, or 0.6085 mills, without going to referendum. The resolution gives the district the ability to seek exemptions for pension funding, which raises the district’s tax rate by approximately 0.1189 mills, and special education funding, which raises millage by 0.0899 mills.
The maximum impact of the Act 1 Index and the exceptions is 0.8172 mills, which would equate to an additional $163 per year for a home assessed at $200,000. Upper St. Clair’s current millage rate is 24.3388.
The 2017-18 budget does not reflect any costs for the financing of capital projects that have been proposed by the district to address facility needs. A community forum to discuss the projects, which included a new high school pool and a multi-use complex with administrative offices by the high school stadium, was held in November.
“The feedback on the projects has been positive as our constituents have voiced concern that our current facilities are substandard,” O’Toole said. “However, it is also clear that we must analyze the scope and costs of these projects in order to minimize the effect on our taxpayers.”
Last spring the district made staffing reductions through attrition, totaling more than $635,000 in annual savings, to reduce annual operating costs.