KC admin to offer deficit budget

MILL HALL — A very preliminary 2018-2019 budget to be presented this Thursday to the Keystone Central School Board is one devised by the district administration, not school board members.

That point was made by several board members to The Express in the aftermath of Saturday’s story about the upcoming meeting and budget deliberation schedule moving forward.

“The administration proposes the budget every step of the way and the school board does not have input at this point,” board member Tracy Smith told The Express.

Business Administrator Susan Blesh confirmed that, saying, “The presentation is from administration, not the board.”

She also explained further about what exactly will be shown at the special meeting set for this Thursday, Nov. 16.

School board members “will be given a fiscal year deficit budget assuming no tax increase or programmatic cuts,” Blesh said.

“This is the budget the task force committee began their work with as a baseline to begin discussion,” Blesh added, referring to the Keystone Central Task Force that met over the summer and recently offered various options to the board to reduce costs by up to $10 million for 2018-2019.

She continued, “The goal (this) meeting is for the board to provide guidance to administration as to what to include or exclude — based off the options presented — in the budget for 2018-19. The guidance received at this meeting will be used to compile the first draft of a preliminary budget.”

Blesh also urged the community to attend, especially the Task Force members whose recommendations “will be included in this presentation as options for the board to consider.”

Some of the options include:

r A district-wide wage freeze for the 2018-19 school year.

r Elimination of eight secondary-level teaching positions through attrition, removing common prep time for teachers outside of the student day, reducing elective options, increasing Bucktail Area High School class sizes to 30, and capping faculty tuition reimbursement district-wide at $250,000.

r Eliminating the Pre-K program.

r Combining five schools to four, or possibly five schools to three.

r Moving 5th grade from elementary to middle school, and combining the two guidance counselors at Renovo into one position.

r Decreasing the stipends paid to athletic coaching staff, band and club advisors by 25 percent.

r Increasing activity fees charged to students from $75 to $100 per activity.

r Bringing in entry-level staff to fill in for more expensive, but more experienced staff who are either leaving, or are currently on sabbatical, as well as allowing some positions to be attritioned out.

r Cutting back on administrative supplies and travel, with less professional development opportunities.

r Shutting off lights in buildings with nothing happening inside, dealing with “an out of control trash” situation, and making numerous other changes.

r Begin to have meaningful conversations with the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School about one-day recombining.

r Moving the one-to-one laptop initiative from MacBooks to ChromeBooks, as well as renegotiating the wide-area network contract.

Previously, the administration – based on projected contractural cost increases that include pensions and benefits — offered an $82.3 million budget for 2018-2019 — which is up substantially from this fiscal year’s $77 million spending plan.

This Thursday’s meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Central Mountain High School cafeteria.