Despite losing more than $1 million in state funding and other economic challenges, Keystone Oaks school directors Wednesday night learned the district may only face a $500,000 budget shortfall in 2011-12.
While board members said it will likely take some finesse and a tax hike to get their financial house in order, the district's $34 million revenue and $34.5 million expenditures puts it in better shape than neighboring schools.
Chartiers Valley is facing a $900,000 budget gap. Carlynton's is projected to be more than $650,000. Upper St. Clair’s deficit is nearly $800,000. And Bethel Park’s is more than $900,000.
But Keystone Oaks’ deficit isn’t low enough to stave off a potential 1.7 percent tax hike, which would generate $359,000 for the district, according to Gwen Walker, director of fiscal services.
“It’s a painful road we’ve had to go down often,” she said.
Last year the district raised taxes by 0.72 mills, which cost the average district resident an extra $60 or more during the year.
This year this district is projected to raise the tax rate from 22.03 to 22.4 mills. It wasn’t immediately clear what the increase will mean to residents.
Keystone Oaks officials will continue to discuss the budget during the next two months, they said.
Walker said she will continue to work on projections and update the budget as more information becomes available.
Bob Lloyd, a school director from Dormont who is running for re-election, questioned what the district is doing to collect delinquent taxes.
About $1.2 million is “collectable,” Walker said. In conjunction with solicitor Ira Weiss’ office and other agencies, about $200,000 was collected this year.
Weiss’ office and Jordan Tax Services are being “very aggressive,” Walker said.
While pursuing delinquent taxes, the district is also reshuffling some of its educators to continue programming without replacing all of the 21 retiring teachers.
Superintendent William Urbanek said only two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher will be hired. To continue the same educational offerings, staff will be restructured, he said. Administrators hope to made all staffing decisions next month, he said.
Additionally, class sizes will increase, he said. Early projections from middle school and high school principals show some classes will include 30 or more students.
Middle school science and social studies courses may average between 27 and 31 students.
High school figures show chemistry classes with 35 students and math classes with 29 students.
“The kids who struggle will be the ones who pay the price,” said Marian Randazzo, education committee chair.
Rob Brownlee, a director from Dormont running for re-election and finance committee chair, asked to see some budget scenarios that included replacing a couple more teachers.
“I don’t like some of the class sizes in the middle school,” he said.