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KCSD board gets updated look at budget

MILL HALL — The Keystone Central school board received an update on the 2022-23 budget during its voting session this week.

The budget update was provided by KCSD superintendent Jacquelyn Martin and business manager Susan Blesh. Budget updates are done annually in November, January and March. The goal for the 2022-23 budget is a balanced budget with no tax increase. The update came on the heels of last week’s work session, in which board vice president Randy Strouse spoke about his concerns over the 2022-23 budget — and beyond.

“Susan and I are happy to provide you with another budget update as we prepare for the next fiscal year and beyond,” Martin said. “I know there was some dialogue about our budget outlook and I wanted to be sure to address those issues this evening. Budgeting is an ongoing process and the purpose of budget forecasting is to guide our fiscal stewardship with the goal of having balanced budgets, responsible budgets and public transparency. Budget forecasting is not intended to be the fiscal plan.”

The timeline for the 2022-23 budget looks like this: There are finance committee meetings on March 1 and April 5. The board will review the proposed general budget at the April 14 meeting. The proposed budget will go to the board for approval at the May 12 meeting and they will adopt the final budget at the June 16 meeting.

Martin recalled a time when a balanced budget was not in sight.

“Three years ago, just before I took on the role of your superintendent, I sat in the audience of your board meeting and listened to a budget presentation that included a budget forecast. At the time, it was predicted that with a three percent tax increase, in the 22-23 school year we would still have an 86 million dollar budget with a $7.6 million deficit and fund balance that was in the hole by over $7 million,” Martin said.

According to Martin, the balanced budget occurred — again — due to the hard work of the administrative team.

“There was no magic that happened … but what happened was a whole lot of hard work on behalf of our administration and the solid support of our board members. We began by getting our strategic plan in place and from there, we aligned operations and procedures to the vision and goals of the district. We aligned resources to the vision goals of the district including human, fiscal (and) material,” Martin said.

The budget came in at $82,670,408 for 2022-23. The district has not had a tax increase for the last three years.

“We developed a responsible budget with short and long term projections that aligned with our comprehensive plan,” Martin said.

In other business Thursday:

— During her superintendent’s report, Martin talked about the decision to close Bucktail High School, Central Mountain High School and Central Mountain Middle School for several days due to COVID-19 case counts.

“The decision for closing our secondary schools to in-person learning for five days was made (Wednesday) at noon. The rationale for moving to remote learning for only secondary schools was based on the 5% threshold that was recommended to us by the PA Department of Health and PDE … and the known positive case counts,” Martin said. “To provide some perspective … the total number of known cases among elementary school students in the past two weeks is 25 as compared to secondary which totaled 103 and staff cases which totaled 15. We believe that taking a five day break, with only three instructional days will be helpful in preventing further infections, therefore reducing the number of contacts and quarantines.”

— The board passed the entire agenda by a unanimous 8-0 vote, with the exception of a few items. Board member Polly Donahay was absent from the meeting.

The school board will meet for a work session at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3 at Central Mountain High School. The meeting is open to the public but will also be streamed live through the district’s website.

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