Canton passes preliminary final budget, .827 mil tax increase included

Canton School District’s preliminary budget was passed last week, alongside discussion of soaring retirement costs and cyber schooling.

CANTON — Canton Area School District has passed a preliminary final budget for the 2018-2019 school year that includes a .827 mill tax increase as well as a $718,166 deficit, and it is now available for public review until June.

Business Manager Mark Jannone stated that due to Canton School District being spanned over three counties, the district must equalize tax distribution annually.

The .827 mill increase combined with equal distribution brings Bradford County to a 1.7402 mill increase equaling 3.45 percent; Lycoming County a .2495 mill increase to .24 percent; and a decrease of .0477 mills in Tioga County of .28 percent.

Canton’s proposed final budget reflects expenses set at $15,929,056, which are up from the 2017-2018 school year budget by $282,920.

Budget documents attribute the increase to “benefits, primarily healthcare and retirement contribution, which are up by a combined $238,385.”

Revenues for the district are slated to come in at $15,210,890, a number raised from last year by $304,917. Approximately $120,000 is sourced by the local tax increase and $123,000 is the state’s share of PSERS and reimbursement.

Jannone pointed to a continued leap in the cost of retirement plans, and noted that though the state has increased state subsidies to school districts every year for the past seven years, the amount of money given in subsidies falls short of offering adequate aid to the financial strain on districts.

“(The) PSERS, the state retirement system, is increasing our expenses by $200,000 and the state is giving us $150,000 to cover that expense. So they’re giving us more money, yes, but not enough to cover the mandated expenses that they’re forcing on us,” he said.

Jannone noted that the spendable increase in state subsidy (revenue that’s not already committed to specific expenses) for the 2018-2019 is $37,700, and the net increase in retirement this year totals in at over $50,000, claiming all finances given to the district by the commonwealth.

Jannone stated that approximately 85 percent of the school’s overall budget is designated to the cost of employee salary, retirement and benefits, with 44 percent going to retirement and benefits alone.

“We’re still in the same position we’ve been in the last couple years, we’re leaking because the state’s not coming through with enough subsidies. The state’s not coming through with enough subsidies because the costs are increasing at an astronomical rate that they can’t control,” Jannone said. “If they made changes today it would take 30 years before the effect was felt. That’s a problem and it all stems to our, and I say our because I’m in it, okay, our retirement system … our retirement system right now is our largest hemorrhage.”

The cost of cyber schooling was also discussed, with Board Vice President Bill Holland inquiring about how much the district spends on cyber school each year.

Jannone stated that while Canton once paid approximately a quarter of a million toward cyber schooling, due to principals having “aggressively recruited back” students to a Canton cyber curriculum, the district’s cost is around $150,000 while neighboring districts pay an estimated $550,000 to $600,000.

“Here’s our concern, fund it fairly,” stated Superintendent Eric Briggs. “What happens is the money that we’re allocated as a public school system for a student and the money that we have to send them per student is completely disproportionate and that’s a major issue for us.”

In addition, Jannone brought to attention that tax bills may look different in the mail this year, sent in an envelope opposed to mailers as they have been in the past and citizens should be cautious not to throw them away unknowingly.

Connect with Bri: (570) 265-2151 ext. 1627; bostrander@thedailyreview.com; Facebook @Brianne Ostrander Daily Review.

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I am a reporter with The Daily and Sunday Review in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. See a story? Let me know!