A memo from Allentown School District CFO, Jack Clark, to Superintendent C. Russell Mayo, noted that the district's 2014-2015 preliminary budget is a "work in progress" and the city's taxpayers and the district's employees can most certainly be thankful for that.
The memo, which was included in Thursday's night's board of directors meeting packet, said if the preliminary budget approved Thursday night by a 7-2 vote were official, taxpayers would be trying a 9 percent tax increase on for size and several more employees would be trying to find work as they'd be out of a job. Directors Joanne Bauer and Ce Ce Gerlach dissented.
What fate has in store for the district this spring and early summer before a final budget must be produced by June 30th is anyone's guess, but the facts are Thursday night only two directors - President Robert Smith and Director Charles Thiel - were inclined to articulate their views on the district's latest budget shortfall.
"Its preliminary, we don't even have the numbers yet from the governor (Gov. Corbett)," said Smith prior to the budget's approval. ""I just want to remind Dr. Mayo and the administration there's no way I'm going to vote for a 9 percent tax increase. We need to get that number down for the citizens of Allentown."
Gov. Corbett's budget is slated to be released February 4th. The timing is something that doesn't do the school district or citizens of the commonwealth any favors in Thiel's estimation.
"More than half of the Allentown School District budget comes from the state," he said in a prepared statement. "We are approving a preliminary budget based on assumptions that will impact our students, staff, city and taxpayers. This is one example among many that our state laws do not serve us well. Laws must change. I call upon our leaders in Harrisburg to lead us to real education reform. Both our leaders and laws must be servants, not masters."
As it stands now ASD is a slave to a fearsome foursome of expenditures that had a significant impact on the preliminary budget approved Thursday night. An increase by more than $5.7 million in charter school payments, a spike of more than $4.6 million in bond payments, a $4,3 million increase in healthcare costs and a rise of $2.9 million in PSERS obligations once again has the school district crying poor and threaten to make taxpayers and teachers do the same.
"It's just preliminary," Smith repeated prior to the vote in an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons although even he acknowledged the attempt tasted sour. "But I understand, this is still not good news."