Exeter school board could hold line on taxes, but several factors still uncertain

Exeter school board could hold line on taxes, but several factors still uncertain

ST. LAWRENCE, Pa. – Exeter Township residents could quite possibly see a 0% tax increase in next school year’s budget.

Tuesday night, the Exeter Township School District Board of Directors received an update on the 2023–24 budget from Superintendent Christy Haller, Assistant Superintendent Dawn Harris and Business Administrator Brian Feick at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Final revenue figures are still uncertain, Haller explained, and much of the uncertainty stems from how much funding the state will contribute. Even though the school district must pass a budget by June 30, it is unlikely — based on recent history — that the state will pass its budget until some time in July or later. On a positive note for the district, the state budget proposed by Gov. Josh Shapiro contains a healthy increase in money for schools.

Other sources of budget increases which are uncertain, Haller said, are health, auto and liability insurance rates — which will not be finalized until May — interest rates and the rate of inflation.

The proposed budget currently projects revenues of $83,317,818, and expenditures of $83,247,977, producing a slight budget surplus of $69,841, according to Harris. There will be no tax increase, and the millage rate will remain at 34.7098.

Harris pointed out the impact of special education services, which receive limited funding from the federal and state governments. In 2022-23, special education costs were $16,912,549, while in 2023-24, they are expected to increase to $18,404,067.

Another increasing cost relates to cyber education, for which no government funding is dedicated. That will cost the school district $2,392,000 in the upcoming school year.

The greatest contributors to expenses, as expected, are salaries at $35,676,478, representing 42.25% of the budget, and benefits at $25,244,883, equaling 29.20% of expenditures.

Feick reviewed the budget timeline. On May 15, the school board should adopt a proposed final budget that will be advertised for 20 days. On June 20, the board should adopt a final budget and an annual tax levy resolution. In neither case can the votes go beyond June 30.

Food services budget

The food services budget for the upcoming school year was presented by Feick. He noted that no Exeter tax dollars fund this budget. Rather, federal and state monies fund 65%, and meal charges fund the remaining 35%.

Total revenue is projected to be $2,247,075, and expenditures should be $2,240,241. producing a surplus of $6,834.

Feick also told the board that due to increased federal monitoring and reporting, he is recommending that the “food services supervisor” title be changed to “director of food services,” and the work days be increased from 220 days to 260 days.

Other contracts

Other items were sent to the school board for approval at the May 15 meeting.

It was recommended that the board approve the Teachers In The Parks, or TIPS, contract or the fully-inclusive TIPS programming option at the flat-rate fee of $8,000 and a per-student cost of $325 for approximately 150 students.

The cost of TIPS will be paid through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds for the 2022-23 summer program. The cost for parents is $125 for the summer, and scholarships will be provided based on need.

The directors will vote to approve a tuition agreement between Devereux Foundation and the school district for special education services for an unnamed student, beginning Jan. 20 through June 30 of the 2022-23 school year, at a cost of $325 per day, for a total cost of $31,850.

It was recommended that the board approves tuition agreements between Elwyn Opportunities School and the Exeter Township School District to provide extended school year services for an unnamed student for the period June 26 to Aug. 3 at a rate of $239 per day, and a second unnamed student for the period June 26 to Aug. 3 at a rate of $404 per day, for a total of $14,789.

Also, an agreement between Richard J. Caron Foundation and Exeter Township School District to provide student assistance and wellness programs for the period of July 1 through June 30, 2024, at a cost of $57,472, will be recommended for approval.

It was recommended that the board approve an agreement between Inspired Wellness LLC and the district to provide consistent mental health groups for the 2023-24 school year at a cost not to exceed $17,280.

In addition, it was recommended that the board authorize district participation in the Berks County Joint Purchasing Board for bids for fuel, classroom and office supplies, art supplies and medical and nursing supplies.

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