Committee Outlines Upcoming Budget
CLYMER — Almost a year ago, Clymer Superintendent Ed Bailey supported a 2018-19 school budget that featured a 13 percent tax increase that was later voted down by the community. Now, Bailey feels more confident that the district has raised the community’s awareness regarding its financial situation.
“I think we are (in a better situation),” Bailey told The Post-Journal at a board of education meeting Monday. “I think there’s going to be more awareness. People are going to be more aware of the situation and they’re going to know our situation and know what we’re up against. I think there’s going to be a higher level of trust with the board.”
With more community members attending Monday’s meeting, the board fielded questions about the upcoming budget during a five-year outlook presentation. Earlier in the 2018-19 school year, the district formed a community-based financial focus group aimed at creating a five-year financial outlook for the school district as well as helping inform the community about the reality of Clymer’s financial status.
The financial group completed their task on Monday when they presented a sample of their findings to the board and gathered community members. The complete details the group gathered were provided only to the board and school officials that will be used to give insight into the board’s budget-making process.
Bailey said the information the district received from the focus group will be immediately used for the board of education budget workshop meeting on Wednesday. During the last budget workshop Feb. 6, board members agreed all options were on the table in terms of forming the upcoming budget. The state allowed property tax cap for the 2019-20 school budget is 4 percent. The tax cap is the percentage a school district can raise its tax levy without a super majority voter rating of 60 percent. Last year, Clymer’s cap was around 2 percent.
At the last workshop, in order to continue operations without cuts, the board agreed a tax increase would be needed that would exceed the cap without making program or position cuts. Bailey again maintained that a tax increase similar to what the board asked for last year would be proposed again.
Last year, the 2018-19 school budget vote that proposed a 13 percent tax levy increase exceeding the tax cap was voted down by the public.
The first vote failed to receive a 60 percent approval with district residents voting 238 to 237. Upon a revote in June, the board proposed a school budget with a flat tax levy that district residents approved by a vote of 325 to 111.
The total budget remained the same as the previous proposal at $11,561,554, but the new proposed tax levy of $4,283,832 was decreased by $357,192, the initial amount over the state-allowed tax cap of 4 percent. The total 2018-19 budget is up 2.4 percent from the 2017-18 school year.
The majority of the financial focus group members admitted coming to the realization that the board and the school district are very limited in what they can control in terms of the budget. Much of the process is dictated by mandated regulations, as the committee members came to realize.
Community members in attendance asked about increasing educational programming and what the inevitable tax levy increase would look like. Bailey told those gathered that the district was too early in the budget process to announce any decisions regarding a potential tax increase.
Much of the financial focus group’s presentation emphasized the assumptions the committee works on as it outlined its financial outlook.
For Bailey, the group reached its goal. The group was comprised of several “key community communicators” who had financial backgrounds, the superintendent said. Bailey also said the group was convened to show the board’s and the district’s transparency.
“We need everybody to be trustworthy of what we’re doing because it’s a really difficult budget year for us,” Bailey said.