Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem School District cuts deficit to $5.4M

$3M would come from fund balance

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem Area School District's challenge this spring will be to balance the books.

School officials reported during Monday night's budget meeting that they have cut the $10.7 million deficit projected in February for the 2018-2019 budget deficit down to $5.4 million.

The majority of the $5.3 million reduction came from one source: the district's fund balance. BASD announced they'll use $3 million of it to narrow the gap, and they'll save another $776,000 through the retirements of 23 employees.

The changes leave the new proposed budget's total revenues at $276.6 million and total expenditures at $282 million.

The district lays the blame for this year's budgetary shortfall on insufficient funding and on charter schools.

Superintendent Joseph Roy said that local school districts such as BASD are not receiving enough funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

He added that the formula to fund charters schools is unfair to local school districts and that reform is needed.

In addition, he said that PSERS — Public School Employees' Retirement System — funding changes are also needed.

Roy said the state is "putting more of the burden on the local school districts" than they should.

BASD maintains they've done their job this budgetary season by controlling their growth of local expenditures, while also maintaining BASD's assets.

Also discussed were the options for balancing the budget:

  • Cutting BASD Programs.
  • Raising the millage rate and applying for exceptions to raise it beyond the Act 1 Index.
  • Using additional fund balance.
  • Seeking additional state revenue.

For the 2018-2019 budget, the district's Act 1 Index, the state's ceiling on annual property tax increases, is set at 3 percent and would generate $4.9 million in taxpayer dollars for the district.
Should the district's board of directors decide to include the district exceptions in a property tax increase, it would generate an additional $2.3 million.
 

Upcoming BASD Budget Dates:

  • April 30: budget workshop
  • May 14: tentative final budget adoption
  • June 18: final budget adoption

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