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No tax increase in KC’s 2021-22 proposed budget

MILL HALL — The Keystone Central school board got an in-depth look at the proposed 2021-22 budget during Thursday night’s voting session.

KCSD superintendent Jacquelyn Martin and business manager Susan Blesh made the presentation.

The budget features zero tax increase. The proposed final budget adoption will take place at the voting session on Thursday, May 13 with final budget adoption scheduled for the voting session on Thursday, June 17.

“We thought we were close to closing the budget gap … we’ve been able to do that,” Martin told the board.

The tentative budget for 2021-22 features expenses at $82,987,797 and revenue at $77,722,918. ESSER grant funds are $5,264,879. There would be no shortfall and no use of budget reserves. There would be $15,599,731 in reserves remaining.

Martin and Blesh addressed some changes in 2021-22 revenue. The business privilege tax will be reduced by $200,000.

“We continue to watch that, but we do feel we should reduce the overall budget by $200,000 for that tax at this time based on collections and where we’re at currently,” Blesh noted.

There’s no change in the real estate tax and the state budget is to be determined.

“The proposal that came out from Gov. (Tom) Wolf is not included,” Blesh said.

Blesh spoke about the ESSER II 2020-21 grant. KCSD received $5,316,886, which will be spread out over three years. The breakdown of the grant looks like this:

2020-21: $1,212,930 — SMART Board technology, community feeding program, COVID requirements for school meal program and math intervention sources.

2021-22: $2,289,956 — Special education intervention services, KCSD Virtual Academy, sanitize and clean facilities supplies and staff, personal protective supplies and personnel.

2022-23: $1,814,000 — KCSD Virtual Academy, sanitize and clean facilities supplies and staff, personal protective supplies and personnel.

“This is anticipated usage per year. As actuals roll through and as things happen, it’s a moving target. But this is the goal … to spread that money out over three years over these particular topics or departments,” Blesh said. “The main focus … was instruction, safety, PPE and offsetting some long-term expenditures.”

Blesh also talked about the ESSR III 2020-21 grant. That grant award is for $10,677,162.

The grant expires in September, 2024. A minimum of 20 percent must go toward programs to mitigate learning loss among students. The goal for the funds, according to Blesh is long-term planning, reduction of class size, community feeding project, capital projects — both technology and facilities.

“We have put a lot of technology out into our schools over the last 18 months, so we want to look long term. What does that mean? How can we use ESSR funding over the next three years to offset long-term items that we know we’re going to have to put some funds into later,” Blesh said.

The budget presentation also featured an in-depth look at KCSD’s upcoming expenses. Those include: Security camera system project ($268,312), athletics operating budget ($62,865), additional staffing needs; maintaining social distancing in classrooms ($960,000), Bucktail HVAC, indoor air quality project ($1,000,000), virtual academy tuition ($520,000), contingency budget for ESSR expenses ($1,375,000) and healthcare certified rate at 4.1 percent ($175,000).

According to Martin, the additional funds for athletics is much needed.

“There were some things that were seriously underfunded in our athletics program. We’ve been able … to talk directly with coaches about things they absolutely need — not nice to have — but you need to have to run your program. This represents approximately a six percent increase in the overall athletics budget, which is around a million dollars,” Martin said.

Board member Roger Elling spoke about the importance of a solid athletic program.

“I actually wish that the coaches would not live in the past as far as the way things used to be, where they were afraid to ask the district for items that are needed for their teams. I know that’s been a problem in the past, but I want everyone to know that this is a different time and this is a different board. We want to support our athletics and allow them to become world-class athletics,” Elling said.

The Keystone Central school board will meet for a work session at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 6. That meeting is closed to the public but accessible on Zoom through the district’s website.

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