With a new governor comes a new state budget and new concerns over funding for school districts across the Commonwealth. It has been reported that Governor Tom Corbett plans to cut $1 billion in state money for public schools for the 2011-12 budget.
St. Marys Area School District Superintendent Ann Kearney said she is anticipating deep cuts in education with the new state budget, and adding to that concern is uncertainty over the availability of federal program monies.
At a recent school board workshop, Kearney presented information on SMASD's anticipated revenues for the 2011-12 budget.
"Our school district is funded in three ways: by local, state and federal monies. There are also other grants, but many of those have dried up and are difficult to come by," Kearney said. "We are facing economic tough times in public education across the state and the nation."
She noted that many grant processes take into consideration the fair market value of a community, as well as the district's PSSA scores, in which St. Marys scores very well.
According to Kearney, 44 percent of the district's revenues come from state funding.
"Fifty-four cents of every dollar spent comes from local taxes," she added.
For the 2010-11 school year, the millage for the district was 31.78, the same rate tentatively budgeted for 2011-12. This rate included a 1.13 mill increase from last year, in which the district still remained below the Act 1 index.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Act 1 index was enacted five years ago to provide property tax relief for homeowners through funding from gaming revenue. It also seeks to prevent Pa. residents from excessive taxes enacted by school districts and other entities. Under Act 1, school boards may raise taxes each year to combat inflation, or through a referendum, for emergencies. After a certain level, which is the index calculated by a state formula, they need to seek voter approval. Within the SMASD, the Act 1 index would allow a maximum increase of 1.8 percent, equal to a $12.50 increase for a home with an earned income of $50,000.
However, Kearney emphasized the board has voted not to raise taxes above the Act 1 index. She added the district is anticipating a five percent increase in earned income tax (EIT) due to local industry calling back laid-off workers. In 2011-12, local EIT would provide a revenue of $1.6 million.
"I commend the board for being very frugal and keeping taxes down as much as possible," Kearney said.