JERSEY SHORE - Previously facing an $875,000 deficit, the Jersey Shore Area School Board heard the first reading of the district's tentative budget at Tuesday's meeting.
Superintendent Richard Emery said the district looked to provide a good education to its students while also being "fiscally responsible" to its taxpayers.
Although it reduced its staff by seven positions and one custodian, the district still is facing a deficit of about $30,000.
"It's still a work in progress," Emery said after the meeting.
"We're close to even," Adrienne Craig, business manager, said before the budget presentation.
District revenues are projected to be about $35.3 million after a $215,000 tax increase. The board approved a resolution in the fall that it would not file for exceptions to go past the Act 1 tax limit. A majority (56 percent) of the district's revenue comes from the state. But it isn't enough right now to fully balance the budget.
"We are still looking to decrease our expenditures," Craig said.
Staff salaries and benefits accounted for 69 percent of the district's expenditures. Another factor that is hurting the district is a reduction of about $163,000 in state subsidies.
Craig said the budgeting process for the upcoming year started in September and the district has been working on it since.
"We met with the principals and the administrators to get their input," she said.
Emery outlined factors that went into the budget, such as looking for student achievement in reading, math and science. He said the district also looked to provide a staff that is 100 percent highly qualified.
Besides staff furloughs, the district also discontinued its athletic insurance to help cut costs.
Emery showed projects the district will look to complete in the next couple of years as part of a feasibility study for all district buildings. The list includes some "big ticket" items, which makes it difficult to complete all at one time, he said.
"We're not trying to hit all these items at one time," he said.
Craig also noted that in order to complete all projects mentioned in the study it would cost the district about $9.2 million with only $3 million available.
"We'll have to look this over and do some heavy prioritizing," she said.
Also due to construction, debt service is going up, but Craig mentioned it will level off to 2010 numbers in the 2016-17 school year.
The district committed about $2.08 million for retirement, a cost increase Craig said the district planned for.
"We had a plan for lessening the impact to our district," she said.
Emery said after the meeting the district will continue looking at ways to balance the budget.
The board also unanimously approved a retirement incentive to reduce the 15 years of service requirement to 14 years. Emery called the decision a "win-win" situation. He said there are three staff members who expressed interest in taking the incentive.
The board is expected to vote on a tentative approval of the budget at its April 23 meeting.