2017-01-11 / Today's Top Stories

Budget process moves forward with its preliminary passage

Officials expect plenty of changes as process continues in months ahead

By MATT HICKS

Editor-in-Chief

WYALUSING — The Wyalusing School Board set a stepping off point for its 2017-2018 budgeting Monday, approving a preliminary spending plan valued at $23,179,240.

This budget represents a 2.44 percent, or $552,073, increase over the current spending plan, and is based on the district’s Act 1 index of a 3.3 percent, or $326,000, increase in the tax levy.

But as officials stressed Monday, it is still early in the process and there are many hard figures that need to be secured before a final measure can be put forward for a board vote.

“The major one is that the governor has not released his budget yet,” said Superintendent Dr. Jason Bottiglieri. “That will be released in February and will help drive some answers.”

“This will change several times over the next few months as we narrow down the budget process, as more information comes to light,” added Business Manager Stephanie Heller. “We will certainly make the updates and make sure everyone knows where we are at in the process.”

Because of how early a preliminary budget vote is required to take place under state law, school board member Richard Robinson provided the lone “nay” vote in protest.

“I really don’t know what’s in the state’s mind with this requirement,” said Robinson. “It’s absolute foolishness to go though this sort of thing now, because the final product isn’t going to look a whole lot like what you are voting on tonight.”

One set of numbers that officials believe will remain steady are salaries and benefits, with the Pennsylvania State Employee Retirement System having set its contribution level last month. School board President Chad Salsman noted that salaries were $10.1 million and benefits were $3.7 million in the 2012-2013 budget, but are now at $9.2 million and $6.2 million, respectively.

“And most of it is PSERS driven,” said Salsman. “So, even though we’ve decreased the amount we pay in salaries, benefits have almost doubled.”

As school leaders await Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal, Bottiglieri encouraged residents to contact state lawmakers about allocating more funding toward public education.

“We’ll be cautiously optimistic that maybe some additional dollars will be dedicated there,” said Bottiglieri.

Matt Hicks can be reached at (570) 265-2151 ext. 1628; or email mhicks@thedailyreview.com.

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