Citing a combination of stagnant state aid, pension cost increases and decline in local revenues, the Wilson Area School Board is proposing a 1.6% property tax increase under the preliminary 2013-14 district budget.
The $35.5 million preliminary budget was unanimously approved by the board Monday night. The preliminary spending plan, which represents a $1 million increase over the 2012-13 budget, calls for a property tax increase of .8 mills. The proposed .8 mill increase to 51.2 mills represents a tax increase of $40 on each $50,000 of assessed property value.
Superintendent Doug Wagner said he anticipates these preliminary figures to change before the budget is formally adopted in June. Wagner said he is confident the proposed tax increase will be lessened before the final budget adoption, especially if the state government decides to increase aid to the district.
Wagner said the proposed tax increase is being driven in large part by state aid remaining level in recent years and local revenues dropping, despite continual cost increases, especially in pension and healthcare obligations. In just the last year, local revenues have been dramatically impacted by a $131,000 loss from property assessment appeals, Wagner noted.
“It is becoming a more difficult challenge to sustain the quality of our education in a fiscally responsible way due to the economic times,” Wagner said in a presentation to the board.
Despite these financial challenges, Wagner said the preliminary budget supports six priorities “to maintain the resources that ensure our district continues to be successful”:
-- Maintaining current curricular and co-curricular programming.
-- Maintaining all current staff members, except for not filling the position of an outgoing elementary classroom teacher.
-- Supporting the successful updating of academic content for high school English, math and foreign languages and intermediate school social studies.
-- Ensuring the appropriate placement for all students.
-- Sustaining acceptable class sizes in all grade levels.
-- Developing a budget residents are able to financially support.
BOARD SIGNS OFF ON CIT BUDGET PROPOSAL
In other business Monday night, the Wilson board signed off on the Career Institute of Technology’s $8.1 million budget for 2013-14.
Wilson’s share to the vocational-technical institute is increasing by about $14,000 to $879,000. Officials said this increase is due to Wilson’s enrollment increasing a higher rate than the four other districts being served by CIT.
CIT Administrative Director Ronald R. Roth said the projected costs to the five districts are actually less than the increases in the overall operating budget. This is due, he said, to expected increases in subsidies and other revenues.
Like the Wilson district, Roth said CIT is facing substantial increases in benefit costs, which are going up by 8.2%. The most significant benefit cost increases are for pensions and workman’s compensation, Roth stated.
SCHOOL PROGRAMS RECOGNIZED
Monday’s Wilson board meeting included formal recognition of two school-based volunteer programs.
The Wilson Borough Elementary School Mileage Club was honored as the district’s Volunteers of the Month. Through this program, which strives to make children more physically active, about 130 students participated in after-school walking. Students logged more than 2,000 miles during the fall. The club is currently not active; officials are hoping to restart the effort in the spring.
The Wilson Area Intermediate School’s "Restore the Shore" project was recognized for collecting and distributing thousands of non-perishable food items and other needed supplies to victims of Hurricane Sandy in Tom’s River, New Jersey.
Students collected, boxed and delivered the items to Tom’s River in December.
Wilson Area Intermediate School Principal Anthony Tarsi said of the project: “The goal is for students to see the world is bigger than themselves and to look outside themselves to help others.”
The Wilson Area School Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4.