Charged with finding a way to craft a 2016-17 budget without raising taxes, its looking like the Pottsgrove Schools Administration will get a a lot of help from the state.
Expecting maybe $100,000 more than the previous year's budget, the state spending plan that went into effect without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature will actually be providing about $300,000 more, Business Manager David Nester told the board Tuesday night.
Back in February, Nester presented the board with a first budget look that indicated the possibility of a 2 percent tax hike -- an increase of $91 for the average district homeowner.
The board in turn, instructed the administration to return with budget scenarios for what it would take to get to a 1 percent tax hike, and to a 0 percent tax hike.
Having already begun work on that charged with a series of potential savings initiatives -- some of which are outlined in the Tweets below -- Nester said the news out of Harrisburg was, for a change, better than expected.
"I think we can get close to zero," Nester said. "How close, until we get more answers, I can't tell you. I'm confident we can get under 1 percent, but how close we can get to zero, I can't tell you yet."
One key factor may be how quickly the state can act on its plans for PlanCon, the funding mechanism to provide partial state reimbursement for school construction costs.
Nester said the Pottsgrove budget has $850,000 in this line, but he is concerned about whether the state can borrow and distribute the $2.5 billion will be a budget factor for Pottsgrove.
If it comes during the current budget year, it will be a boon, but if not, it may create an $850,000 shortfall in the 2016-17 budget.
"Right now we're feeling positive, but whether we can get close to zero, depends on how much things change," he said.
Nester's advice, which the board took, is to present the proposed final budget to the board at its next meeting. That will have the latest figures available, allow the budget to be advertised and "available for public inspection" and still provide 45 days to make further adjustments.
"I've been involved wit this process for four years," said Pottsgrove Schools Superintendent Rick Rabinowitz, "and in my experience the proposed final budget always gets reduced, and I have to say these numbers certainly are encouraging."
Here are the Tweets from the meeting.