NEWTOWN SQUARE–Marple Newtown School Board directors approved, 6-3, the preliminary 2013-14 Marple Newtow School District budget at a school board meeting on Jan. 22.
School Board directors John McDevitt, David McGinley and Jim Lanzalotto voted against the approval of the preliminary budget.
Business Administrator Joe Driscoll introduced initial major budget assumptions in the preliminary budget, including a projected 3.75 percent tax increase. According to Driscoll, the total exceptions the district will apply for will be approximately 3 percent.
"The preliminary budget just kicks things off–it's the opening event," said Driscoll. "This is designed as a worst-case-scenario."
Driscoll states on the district website:
"The Marple Newtown School Board of Directors intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for referendum exceptions in accordance with the provisions of Act 1 of 2006 as amended by Act 25 of 2011. The Marple Newtown School District’s Act 1 index for 2013-14 is 1.7%. If granted, the referendum exceptions will allow the Marple Newtown School District to increase taxes above the index without voter approval. The Pennsylvania Department of Education will determine whether or not the Marple Newtown School District’s exceptions will be granted."
McDevitt voted against the preliminary budget, primarily on reasons of adding programs back into the district this year rather than going through a "process of elimination." According to McDevitt, the school district has been putting millions of dollars back into the budget including last year where the district put $2.5 million back into the budget.
"Over the past five years, we have not spent $6 million," said McDevitt. "At the same time, while we’re putting money back in, we're losing the opportunity for programs for the kids at all levels. We have to do something with SAT prep at the high school in a major way. Teaching for testing...if there’s ever a case for it, it’s right there."
Driscoll responded that the district tries to set aside money each year to put back into the budget as an emergency fund. According to Driscoll, the district has used that money in previous years but, in the last few years, has not used that money. However, he noted the money has been saved for items in the budget that the district cannot anticipate such as salary increases, healthcare costs and unexpected litigation costs.
According to Driscoll, the only item that may see some significant changes in the preliminary budget are the medical costs to employees. At the meeting, an informative session with the Delaware County Public School Healthcare Trust–a self-funding consortium of school districts to provide medical coverage for its employees–had also taken place which may or may not lower costs to the district, should they agree into the consortium.
The preliminary budget proposal for 2013-14 will be available for public inspection in the Business Office of the Marple Newtown School District, 38 Media Line Road, Suite 210, Newtown Square, all schools, the local libraries, municipal buildings, and on the district website.
The school board directors will vote to adopt the preliminary budget at a special meeting on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the School Board room on the second floor of the Gauntlett Community Center.