Thursday night’s Allentown School District’s Finance Committee-of-the-Whole meeting produced little new drama, storylines or information regarding the 2012-2013 General Fund Operating Budget.
The committee voted 7-2 to move the budget to the June 28th regularly scheduled board meeting where it will be up for final approval, with board members David Zimmerman and Joanne Jackson voting against it. It contains a 4.8 percent tax increase and dipping into the Fund Balance for $4.1 million to produce a balanced budget.
“After two years of budget cuts at the state level, all the low-hanging fruit is gone,” noted ASD Chief Financial Officer Trevor Jackson of the proposed budget.
With the district starving for cash, the last two years have featured massive budget deficits, forcing the school board and administration to render a series of acrobatic maneuvers to balance the budget. Like many of the discussions surrounding the future of the school district in the last few months, this meeting quickly took on a dour tone with CFO Trevor Jackson illustrating, yet again, how if the district doesn’t fundamentally make significant changes in the next few years, projections indicate that by Fiscal Year 2015 it will be carrying a negative fund balance.
While that looming specter is has become standard fare at most ASD school board meetings these days, Thursday night’s meeting provided no answers or solutions.
“What is the term for bankruptcy for a school district?” Zimmerman asked CFO Trevor Jackson at one point.
“Financial distress,” Jackson answered succinctly.
Another storyline during budget season as been that of board member Scott Armstrong, who has repeatedly criticized personnel costs as the chief reason for the district’s plight.
“The problems are really the costs of employing people,” he said Thursday night, before later adding in a prepared statement that “the burden cannot solely be placed on the taxpayers” with constant tax hikes.
Jackson noted Armstrong made some valid points, but added that the "state is not helping us overcome it."