Keystone Oaks administrators held public meetings last week to discuss the financial status of the school district. On Tuesday, two school board members held a separate but similar meeting to reiterate some of that information.
School board members Dan Domalik and Dave Hommrich held a public meeting at the Green Tree Borough building Tuesday to share information about the district’s financial strengths and shortfalls.
“This is part of what we wanted to do to keep in touch with you guys periodically and let you know what’s going on in the district,” Hommrich said. “To give you our perspective, and basically give you another layer of information, on top of the information you get in the newspapers and from emails from the district.”
Domalik and Hommrich were clear about one thing from the start—the meeting was intended for informational purposes, and to give district residents a chance to share ideas and ask questions. It was not a formal meeting of the Keystone Oaks School Board, and did not involve all of the school board members.
“We are two-ninths of the Keystone Oaks School Board. We’re not here trying to represent a formal position on anything,” Domalik said. “This is our way of staying in touch with the folks who put us here, but it’s not a formal discussion. It’s our information for you.”
Domalik and Hommrich echoed many of the numbers and discussion points that district administrators relayed to the public in finance meetings held last week.
During those meetings, Superintendent William Stropkaj discussed the financial shape of the district, and finance director Eric Brandenburg discussed financial issues facing many Pennsylvania schools, including Keystone Oaks.
Domalik and Hommrich hit many of the same topics Tuesday. Domalik highlighted some positive changes that have occurred in the past year. School consolidation was voted down, a new superintendent and business manager were hired, and communication between the district and the public has improved, he said.
But he said there are still challenges to face.
Domalik said some of the most expensive items in the district’s budget involve meeting the contract obligations for teacher pay, benefits and pensions. The amount the state requires school districts to contribute to teacher pensions is continuing to increase, but the amount of funding the district receives from the state is dwindling. The contract expires in 2016.
With less money overall coming from state and federal sources, the district will likely have to depend more heavily on its fund balance—which now holds about $5 million. If no changes are made, the fund balance will be empty by the 2014-15 school year, a situation that is not allowed by the state.
The district’s costs, Domalik said, outweigh the amount and growth of revenue the district generates. Tax increases, program cuts or other options might have to be considered in the future, but right now those are just discussion points, he said.
The problems won’t be fixed overnight and Domalik said there aren’t any answers yet. He said the district administrators are actively looking at the issues, and that there are a lot of discussions still to take place.
He encouraged district residents to keep open lines of communication with the school board, voice concerns, ask questions, and share ideas for making things better.
“Please don’t think the school board is going to solve this just by having meetings and nine people will figure it out,” Domalik said. “We need the three communities to come together. People have come (to the board) with a lot of ideas and that’s how we’re going to get there.”