The Elizabethtown school board approved a $62.39 million spending plan for the 2018-19 school year, which will raise taxes on property owners of the Elizabethtown Area School District by 3.2 percent.
All board members present at the meeting on Tuesday, June 12, voted in favor of the budget. Members M. Caroline Lalvani and Michael Martin were absent.
Business manager George Longridge gave an overview of the budget plan. The increase, allowed by the state’s Act 1 index, would increase the millage rate, now adjusted for Lancaster County’s reassessment, from 16.0914 to 16.6063. That would mean an increase of $91.19, or $7.60 a month, for the owner of a property assessed at $177,100, the median value in the district.
Longridge also reported that due to adjustments in reassessments, there is an additional $8,065 in revenues, which would erase a previously reported deficit of $5,800, leaving a $2,237 surplus. Cost adjustments included over $475,000 in personnel savings by not filling three vacant teaching positions and no increase in health care costs.
“This is the first time in quite a long time that we’ve been this close in our budget,” said Longridge, thanking his colleagues. “Everybody’s worked so hard to control costs sand to do a good job for our students in providing the type of education that they need.”
The budget includes an increase in capital projects from $300,000 this year to $885,000 for 2018-19. This is to fund building renovations.
The board also agreed to transfer the $1.65 million fund balance from the 2017-18 budget also into capital reserves, again for projects including enhanced building security.
Board member Craig Hummer described the move as prudent, saying, “For any money that we put into capital reserves, it’s less money we’re going to have to borrow at the end.”
The board also discussed proposals for a demographic study to predict future enrollment, to help the district plan for construction and renovation projects. Rheems Elementary School is next to be renovated, but a decision hasn’t been made whether to renovate Mill Road Elementary or close it.
The district’s architect, Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, will do a study for no charge, Longridge said. Another firm, Decision-Insite, will do a study for about $14,000. The advantage to hiring a firm would be an independent viewpoint, without appearing to have a vested interest, Longridge noted. The board will invite both firms to present information at the next meeting, on Tuesday, June 26, andwill make a decision then.
In addition, the board heard about a 10-cent price increase for cafeteria meals. The increase is due to a pricing tool required by the federal Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act. An elementary lunch will cost $2.45 while a middle school/high school lunch will be $2.55; a student breakfast will be $1.45.
The board also heard about the nearly completed Bainbridge Elementary renovations. Change orders of $29,280 include security improvements. Superintendent Michele Balliet noted that the playground, with design input from students, is installed.
She also reported that the just-graduated Class of 2018 wants to donate $1,200 for a new podium in the high school auditorium and that Masonic Village donated $15,000 to the Elizabethtown Area Education Foundation, which funds innovative teaching projects. Over eight years, Masonic Village has given the foundation over $150,000, she said.