Keystone school board continues budget work

Meeting tonight moved to CM auditorium

MILL HALL — A large crowd is expected at tonight’s school board meetings in the Central Mountain High School auditorium.

As the Keystone Central School Board steamrolls toward what looks to be significant budget cuts for 2018-2019, tonight will start with a planning committee meeting at 5 p.m., followed by a voting meeting at 6 p.m.

Due to expectations of a large audience–the January meeting attracted upward of 200 people–the board announced Tuesday night that tonight’s meeting will be held in the auditorium, which is on the west side of the high school just off its main entrance.

The auditorium can hold a larger crowd than the cafeteria, where meetings have been held.

At the first meeting tonight, the board will hear information on the cost to keep Dickey Elementary School open versus closing it and the associated expense reductions.

The budget provided for that meeting shows a savings of around $1.6 million by closing Dickey. According to Business Manager Susan Blesh, those numbers reflect “where we are right now,” but do not include all proposed cuts.

That and other discussion on expenses–the district is facing a multi-million budget deficit next fiscal year–is expected to lead to a vote on the proposed preliminary general fund budget of around $75 million in expenses and $74.8 million in revenue.

Those numbers, explained Blesh, include about $2 million in anticipated tax revenue from Pennsylvania Department of Education exceptions and many cuts to staff and programs, plus a salary freeze and stipend reductions. Blesh said the board has not yet voted on these cuts, but that they had to be included in time to submit a preliminary budget to the PDE for state tax funding purposes.

“That (budget) can change–and will–between now and May,” when the school board will adopt a final budget, she said.

The budgets are showing retirement (pension) costs between $10.9 million and $10.6 million.

They are also showing staff salary costs between $32 million and $33 million.

Also, the board is set to affirm Boise “Bo” Miller of Castanea as the newest school board representative for Region VIII, thus returning the board to a full nine members.

Also, the board is expected to approve receipt of an independent audit by Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, a Williamsport-based accounting and advisory firm, for fiscal year 2016-2017.

The 62-page Baker Tilly audit addresses the district’s internal controls over compliance with federal policies and financial reporting.

Baker Tilly reports that it found Keystone Central to be compliant in most cases except for one: Major federal programs, i.e. Title I grants.

According to Baker Tilly, the district did not file the Reconciliation of Cash on Hand Quarterly Reports with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the second or third quarters of fiscal year.

However, the district did file the first and fourth quarter reports and the final Title I expenditure report, the auditor said.

Baker Tilly said that “oversight of federal programs management” in the district caused the errors.

The director of curriculum and federal programs oversees Title I grant report filing. Former Director Terry Murty departed the district abruptly in November. He is currently on paid leave partially covered by the Family Medical Leave Act and is set to retire July 31.

One of the many documents included in the meeting agenda is an enrollment reported dated Jan. 19, 2018. The numbers show a continued but overall slight decline in student enrollment in Keystone.

Here are some student population numbers per school from the report:

r Bucktail High: 119 vs. 113 last year.

r Central Mountain High: 1,119 vs. 1,147 last year.

r Bucktail Middle: 108 vs. 106 last year.

r Central Mountain Middle: 819 vs. 814 last year.

r Dickey Elementary: 277 vs. 284 last year.

r Liberty Curtin Elementary: 242 vs. 247 last year.

r Mill Hall Elementary: 389 vs. 380 last year.

r Renovo Elementary: 182 vs. 186 last year.

r Woodward Elementary: 295 vs. 305 last year.

These numbers put the secondary population at 2,165 and the elementary population at 1,773. Including a couple of students classified as ungraded, Keystone’s total enrollment is listed at 3,940 versus 3,984 a year ago, for a 1 percent decline.

Total Keystone residence population at Sugar Valley Rural Charter School is 364 students vs. 354 last year.