Reading Schools Begin Pondering $8 Million Budget Gap

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of work still to be done.

Facing a budget gap estimated at about $8 million, that was the overriding message Wednesday night during the first in a series of budget workshops held by the Reading School Board.

Not much new was revealed during the workshop, with Robert Peters, the district’s chief financial officer, simply setting the stage for future budget talks by reviewing the district’s current fiscal status.

Peters said he built the initial $216 million budget – the one with the $8 million hole – without reducing any services or programs.  It includes the maximum allowable tax increase of 2.8 percent, as well as any other projected changes that he could predict to expenditures and revenues.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=465957

Federal Budget Cuts Will Affect More Than Federal Programs, Officials In Scranton Say

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration will hurt everything from the local barbershop to the largest manufacturers in Northeast Pennsylvania, said members of a panel at Sen. Bob Casey’s office Friday in downtown Scranton.

With no deal between Congress and the White House in sight and just hours before sequestration kicked in at midnight, the Democratic senator and a cross-section of local civic leaders struck a dire tone.

“We don’t have a full sense of what will happen,” Mr. Casey said.  “If this goes a day or week, it will have an impact.  If it goes six months, the effect will be devastating.”

As the furloughs and cuts begin, sequestration will have an immediate impact not just on the government employees, but on contractors, and the communities where they live and spend.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/federal-budget-cuts-will-affect-more-than-federal-programs-officials-in-scranton-say-1.1452684

Daniel Boone School Board Tentatively OKs Drastic Cuts

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Daniel Boone School Board is moving forward with a preliminary 2013-14 budget that includes drastic cuts.

The board voted 6-2 Monday to pass a preliminary $54.9 million budget that closes a nearly $5 million gap by raising taxes the maximum amount, furloughing nearly 40 employees and eliminating kindergarten and all extracurricular activities, including sports.

Board members Connor J. Kurtz and Kevin F. McCullough voted no and Robert D. McLaughlin was absent.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting, with many speaking out against the cuts outlined in the preliminary budget.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=452236

Progress Seen In Last-Minute ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Talks

English: President Barack Obama addresses a jo...

English: President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the United States Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the United States Capitol on 24 February 2009. Español: Presidente Barack Obama dando un discurose por una sesión conjunta del Congreso de los Estados Unidos en la cámara de la Cámara de Representantes en el Capitolio de los Estados Unidos, 24 de febrero de 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — Working against a midnight deadline, negotiators for the White House and congressional Republicans in Congress narrowed their differences today on legislation to avert across-the-board tax increases.

Congressional officials familiar with talks between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said one major remaining sticking point was whether to postpone spending cuts that are scheduled to begin on Jan 1.

Republicans want to replace across-the-board reductions with targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget, and the White House and Democrats were resisting.

At the same time, Democrats said the two sides were closing in on an agreement over taxes.  They said the White House had proposed blocking an increase for most Americans, while letting rates rise for individuals with incomes of $400,000 a year and $450,000 for couples, a concession from President Barack Obama’s campaign call to set the levels at $200,000 and $250,000.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/Article.aspx?id=439707

Daniel Boone School Board Proposes Cutting All Programs, Laying Off 40 To Balance Budget

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BIRDSBORO — For the first time in the recent history of the Daniel Boone School District, the following year’s budget is balanced in December.

District administration achieved that zero deficit with the maximum tax increase allowed with the use of two exceptions through Act 1 of 2006, eliminating kindergarten and all student activities including sports and band, and furloughing 40 professional staff.

The board hasn’t approved the budget, though, nor any of those revenue and expenditure measures.

Board President Andrew Basile said in a budget meeting last night that it won’t do that until next June unless concessions can be reached through its contractual partners, or unless there would be additional state revenue.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121207/NEWS01/121209541/daniel-boone-board-proposes-cutting-all-programs-laying-off-40-to-balance-budget

Twin Valley Considers Shorter School Day

Faced with a projected shortfall of $1.2 million for 2013-14, Twin Valley School District officials met with residents Wednesday to explore trimming costs in ways that students wouldn’t notice.

But administrators acknowledged there was one exception to that goal: a compacted school day.

“This is why you’re all here,” acknowledged Dr. Robert F. Pleis, superintendent.

More than 50 district residents attended the town hall-style meeting at Twin Valley Elementary Center, where a team of administrators detailed cost-cutting options that emerged from focus groups earlier this year.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=432046

New Report Warns Of Looming Pennsylvania Pension Shortfall

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett‘s budget office indicated Monday that the governor may attempt to reduce the pensions of current public employees, a politically volatile and legally questionable solution to what has become a $41 billion unfunded liability.

In a new report on the state’s two large public-sector pensions, the budget office warned of the potential for higher taxes, program cuts, lower business growth and steeper borrowing costs because of the state’s financial obligations toward the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.

The financial pressures from the pension systems have loomed over state finances for more than a decade, and Corbett, a Republican, repeatedly has spoken of a desire to make changes to them.

The report says higher taxes “should be off the table,” but reductions in prospective benefits for current employees should be considered.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=431511

Exeter Township Police Chief: ‘We’re At Bare Bones’

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exeter Township Supervisor Dona L. Starr has dispelled fears that the township is considering reducing its police force to help balance the budget.

“There’s one, two, three, four board members who have never even mentioned laying off police officers,” Starr told a crowd of officers and police supporters at a special budget workshop meeting.  “I believe that the Exeter Township Police Department is the best in the county, and I want to keep it that way.  I’m not willing to lay off any officers.  I’m not willing to make any cuts.”

Starr’s comments at Wednesday’s meeting came after statements by Supervisor Kenneth A. Smith, who said he would not be opposed to reducing the police force to make up a $230,000 shortfall in the 2013 budget.

That number is down from an initial budget gap of about $400,000 in August.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=426255

Reading School District Budget Outlook Not Good

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading School District isn’t likely to get any relief from the financial straits that have led the district to cut programs, layoff staff and close schools.

Robert Peters, the district’s chief financial officer, provided the school board with an initial overview of the district’s 2013-14 budget process at a meeting Wednesday night. And the outlook doesn’t appear good.

The district, like others across the state, will yet again be facing increasing expenses with little hope of jumps in revenue.

Peters said increases in pension contributions will probably cost the district about an extra $2.5 million next year, and health care costs will likely increase somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=421733

8 States With Deepest Funding Cuts

Editor’s note:  Pennsylvania did NOT make this list….you may be surprised by some of the states that did!

The Great Recession pinched state governments, forcing them to be less generous with local communities which, in turn, had less to spend on students, police and programs for the poor.

For nearly three decades, local governments could count on a steady increase in money from their two biggest funding sources — the states and property taxes.

That changed in 2009 and 2010, when local governments took in less from both sources, according to a report last month from the Pew American Cities Project.  The funding shortfall has forced many cities, towns, counties and school districts to tighten their belts.

24/7 Wall St identified the eight states making the steepest cuts in funding to local governments. The website’s analysis of data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that these states were having their own budget problems as tax receipts shriveled in an anemic economy.

Read more: http://money.msn.com/investing/8-states-with-deepest-funding-cuts

Little Relief Anticipated As School Taxes Rise In Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

School property taxes have risen more sharply this year than in 2011-12 as Lancaster County school districts continue to struggle with stagnant revenues and surging expenses.

State funding for basic education has been flatlined for most Lancaster County school districts for 2012-13, and local sources of revenue are stagnant or declining as more property owners successfully appeal their assessments.

In addition, school officials say, there was less fat to be cut from budgets this year because so many districts implemented steep spending cuts and wage freezes in 2011-12.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/687758_Little-relief-anticipated-as-school-taxes-rise-here.html#ixzz20bremAN8

20 Pennsylvania Counties Could Receive Human Service Block Grants

HARRISBURG, PA As many as 20 counties could receive human service funding in block grants under a proposal that cleared the Senate Friday, delivering a portion of a change pushed by the Corbett administration.

Counties participating in the pilot program would have more discretion in how they spend state money for programs including child welfare, drug treatment and homeless assistance. The welfare legislation resolved another subject of budgetary dispute by postponing the end of the state-funded cash assistance program for one month.

Gov. Tom Corbett had championed the use of block grants for county welfare programs, saying that combining the payments would give counties more flexibility to target local needs. In February, he proposed replacing seven budget lines with block grants for all counties.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/state/20-counties-could-receive-human-service-block-grants-642601/#ixzz1zHgQ1yut

Reading School Board Passes Budget 5-4

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Board closes 5 schools, lays off 231 employees, raises taxes for first time in nearly a decade!

 
By the slimmest of margins, the Reading SchoolBoard passed a 2012-13 budget Wednesday night that includes more than 200 layoffs, the closing of five schools and the district’s first tax increase in nearly a decade.The $220.5 million spending plan, as well as a 2.8 percent property tax increase, passed by a vote of 5-4.

The vote brought to an end an extremely difficult budget process, which saw the board and administrators try to close a more than $40 million gap in the budget. In the end, the gap was closed to just over $14 million, which will be filled with a large portion of the district’s reserve funds.

 
 

Pink Slips For 18 More Reading School District Workers

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ax has fallen on the final two groups of Reading School District employees facing layoffs as a result of the district’s budget crunch.

Eighteen more employees have received furlough notices: 12 security guards and six members of the Teamsters union, Karen B. Gokay, director of human resources, confirmed Tuesday.

The cuts are part of an effort to close a more than $40 million shortfall in the district’s $220 million 2012-13 budget.

The district announced that positions would be cut when the school board passed its tentative final budget last month.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=396180

Schools’ Financial Squeeze Gives Rise To Questions About Future Of Early Education In Pennsylvania

Editor’s note:  If you read the rest of the article you’ll see a list of districts who are struggling.

On Wednesday, we’ll know if Harrisburg will become the first school district in the state to eliminate kindergarten.

Maybe the novel idea to privately pay for kindergarten through tax credits for businesses will come through, maybe it won’t. Maybe the state will suddenly increase school funding.

Or maybe, as parents have feared all spring, 5-year-olds will spend this fall at home instead of in a classroom.

Looking at the school district — another annual deficit, another year of cutting programs, owing $471 million on past projects — it’s easy to think Harrisburg is the worst example of a broken system.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/06/schools_financial_squeeze_give.html

Carbondale Area School Board To Eliminate 11 Teaching Positions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CARBONDALE, PA  – Several Carbondale Area teachers aired concerns about the elimination of 11 teaching positions at a special work session held Saturday morning.

The school board will vote to approve the $21 million budget for 2012-13 on June 20. The budget does not contain a tax increase, but school district officials expect to save about $600,000 by not replacing 11 teachers retiring this year, according to business manager David Cerra.

But the eliminated positions could also lead to larger class sizes and fewer elective options, teachers who attended Saturday’s work session said.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/carbondale-area-school-board-to-eliminate-11-teaching-positions-1.1327527

Budget Crisis Forces Staff Cuts In Many Berks County School Districts

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attrition.

It’s a word that has no doubt become quite familiar to school board members across Berks County as they look to shed expenses.

And the No. 1 expense for a school district? Personnel.

Cutting staff is a tough choice, but one many Berks school districts have faced. In all, 15 districts have said they will trim their ranks for the 2012-13 year.

Because cutting jobs has a big impact on people’s lives, attrition has become the preferred method.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=389391

Up To 364 Jobs On The Block In Reading School District

Nancy Swope knows a thing or two about education.

She’s been teaching in the Reading School District for 32 years, longer than some in the capacity crowd gathered inside the Reading School District’s board room Wednesday night have been alive, she pointed out with a smile.

Swope spoke passionately to the school board about her dedication to the district. About her passion. About giving her heart, her soul, her blood, sweat and tears to Reading schools.

It was a stark reminder of what the district will be losing.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=388948

Daniel Boone School Board Disagrees On Fixing Budget Gap

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The members of the Daniel Boone School Board can all agree that the district is entering a scary place financially.

However, the best way to prepare for that continues to be hotly debated.

The board is preparing to pass a tentative budget next week at its voting meeting that would include a 0.3168 mill property tax increase and $1.2 million from the general fund balance to help balance its $52.18 million budget.

The tax increase would make the district’s rate about 29.28 mills, which would mean taxes on a property.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=386246

Early Oley Valley School District Budget Includes Tax Hike, Job Cuts

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Oley Valley School Board passed a tentative budget for the 2012-13 school year Wednesday night, but board members are still looking for any possible places to cut.

“I will support this tonight, but I am not pleased with certain aspects of the budget,” board member Ralph C. Richard said. “We still have some work to do, but we’ll get the proposed budget on the docket as we move to get a final budget.”

The $28.21 million budget includes a 0.4013 mill increase, which would bump the tax rate to 24.5563 mills. The annual tax bill on a property assessed at $100,000 would be about $2,456.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=385290