New budget proposed at SMASD meeting

Superintendent Ann Kearney presented the St. Marys Area School District's proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year at Thursday's workshop meeting of the SMASD Board of Directors. The budget, still tentative pending approval by the board, totals $24,339,949 and represents a 1.78 percent increase from last year's.In detailing the proposal, Kearney discussed expected revenue and expenditures influencing the upcoming year's projections. "We were unsure last year when we were doing the budget for this year what the earned income tax (EIT) would be. We're anticipating it will be a little bit higher than we budgeted. We're anticipating a four percent increase on what we've budgeted for this current year," Kearney said. The proposed budget includes an expected four percent increase in EIT budgeted for 2011-2012. As Kearney explained, EIT fluctuates with area employment rates and is projected to climb as the local economy continues to rebound. Kearney said that district revenue will be adversely affected by low interest rates yielding smaller returns on district investments. "Interest rates are so low, even though we've had more in our fund balance and more to put in for investments, the earnings are very low," Kearney said. Kearney added that while the current budgeted projection for earnings on investments for 2012-2013 is $45,000, the district is more likely to see earnings in the range of those seen in 2010-2011, which totaled $22,980. The loss of revenue from investments is coupled with a leveling off of local revenue, like that from occupational millage and real estate tax collection. Under the tentative budget, revenue from occupational millage is projected to increase a meager $1,640 from the year prior, with real estate taxes expected to do the same to the tune of $26,901.As Kearney explained, the board voted in January not to raise real estate taxes above the ACT 1 index, currently 2.2 percent. "Which would mean, we could raise the taxes up to .70 mills, which would bring in approximately $170,000," Kearney said. A one-mill increase would increase the tax on a $50,000 home by $25 and generate approximately $288,500 in potential revenue for the district. Kearney said according to the 2010 U.S. Census, of the district's 8,061 households, only 25 percent have children 18 years old and younger. "That means that 75 percent of our households have no children [attending elementary or secondary school], yet they are supporting public education and that's why it is so important that we continue offering such a great education for our students, because it is all Americans' responsibility to make sure our young people are well-educated," Kearney said.