The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 21, 2014

Warrior Run faces $919,000 shortfall

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— TURBOTVILLE — The Warrior Run School District is facing a deficit of more than $919,000, according to a preliminary budget adopted Monday night at the district’s school board meeting.

No decisions were made in regard to the district’s elementary schools, which the district has considered reconfiguring to save money. That decision will most likely happen at the Feb. 17 meeting, Superintendent John Kurelja said.

The total $21.18 million budget includes projected tax increases for the three counties served by the district, according to Kurelja.

While the district does not have final tax increase numbers, which depend on the governor’s budget, Kurelja said the district predicts taxes will rise between $66 and $91 in Montour County, between $50 and $82 in Northumberland County and $63 and $77 in Union County.

The biggest increase in the budget, which rose 7 percent from last year’s budget, is in retirement costs, which rose more than 21 percent, from $1.58 million in 2013-2014 to more than $2 million in 2014-2015.

Those costs are going to continue to rise in coming years, Kurelja said.

“This is something that’s not going to change,” he said.

Personnel costs rose slightly as well, Kurelja said.

However one of the district’s “biggest success stories,” was the district’s change in health care plan, which caused a controversy during recent teacher contract negotiations. The change is projected to save the district $30,000 this year, Kurelja said.

“That number is usually in the neighborhood of a $200,000 to $300,000 increase,” he said.

While the $900,000 deficit may seem overwhelming, Kurelja said it is reflective of the district being conservative with some state funding numbers, which will not be available until Gov. Tom Corbett reveals his preliminary budget in February.

“We tend to start with the worst-case scenario, and it tends to get better down the road,” he said.

The preliminary budget was unanimously approved by the school board Monday night. A final budget for the 2014-2015 school year will not be approved until May.

When an audience member questioned the public’s ability to give feedback on the elementary school issue, Kurelja said the issue cannot legally put on a referendum.

The district is trying to let as many parents know about the issue, Kurelja said

“We’re trying to be as proactive as possible,” he said.

Board member Michael Davis said the decision about the elementary school is still “a work in progress.”

“Give us a phone call or email us and give us your opinion,” he said.

Board President Todd Moser said the issue, regardless of the final vote this year, “is not going away,” noting that the move could save the cash-strapped district $250,000 to $300,000.

“If I sit here as a board member and realize I can take $300,000 out of the deficit and I don’t do that, am I acting negligently?” he said. “I have to question myself ... That’s where I am.”

The meeting ended with an executive session to discuss personnel matters, Kurelja said.