By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
NEW BERLIN — By a 9-0 vote, the Mifflinburg school board Tuesday night approved a $27.6 million proposed budget for 2014-15, but with a $1.2 million deficit, the directors left open the question of a tax increase.
The members met in SUN Area Technical Institute, which also got a unanimous nod for its $6.1 million operating budget. Mifflinburg had asked the New Berlin vocational school to go back a second time and trim its budget.
This is the third deficit budget the Mifflinburg board has approved in recent years, a trend that Business Manager Thomas Caruso said cannot continue without eating away at the district’s fund balance. Future budgets will face the same dilemma, he said, and “there is concern of continuing to use the fund balance without depleting it.”
In January, the school board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution not to raise taxes above the district’s allowed index of 2.8 percent. Should the board decide to increase taxes, Caruso said it would be an average increase of about $30 per household.
Mifflinburg’s situation is like that of many other school districts: a flat-funded budget from Harrisburg, no increase in the special education subsidy plus an increase in retirement and health care costs. The district’s projected deficit did come down from $1.3 million in October, however.
Adding to Mifflinburg’s situation is more than $1 million the state owes the district in PlanCon reimbursements for the high school renovation. The district is getting about $80,000 in PlanCon reimbursement for fixes to the intermediate school, but “not a dime for the high school,” Caruso said. Mifflinburg is one of 160 school districts statewide that are not getting their PlanCon money.
Regarding SUN Tech’s budget, Superintendent Dan Lichtel said he’s “comfortable with SUN Tech’s adjustments” to the spending plan, which Mifflinburg had asked for about two months ago. Personnel expenses are the largest component of that budget, he said, noting there have been several meetings among the five school districts that send students there and that communications among them had improved as a result.
Mifflinburg’s proposed budget will be available for public review and comment for 30 days in the district’s administrative offices. The board must adopt a final budget in June.