When the Upper Dublin School District last announced 2012-13 budget numbers earlier this month, Patch reported that the district was facing a $565,000 shortfall.
That number has now grown to just over $1 million dollars, and the district faces the prospect of cutting approximately $770,000 in expenditures by the budget's deadline in late spring, according to school administrators.
In a presentation at a special budgetary session of the Board of School Directors Monday night, superintendent Michael Pladus and business administrator Brenda Jones Bray said that the shortfall comes from lower than expected revenues and higher than expected expenditures in 2011-12, and "most significantly," the impact of a HUB Properties Trust tax reassessment case.
HUB Properties owns several buildings in the Fort Washington Office Park that were cited as being at-risk of flooding in a 2010 study. Patch asked district administrators for numbers regarding the size of the reassessment and is awaiting a response.
However, Pladus painted the deficit into the larger landscape of school districts across the state, referencing nearby districts that have resorted to layoffs and curriculum cuts.
"I stand in front of the community…extremely proud that we have reached 2012-13 with significant efforts to reduce negative impact on kids and programs, and secondly, avoiding the loss of jobs that were part of the landscape," Pladus said. "It is harder and harder to hold back the tide. We've been able to hold back that door because we have all been working together and pushing together, but 2012-13 may be the last year of this new normal."
Pladus covered two major topics in his presentation: what the district has already done to help its bottom line, and eight options for closing the current deficit. Pladus stated that the inclusion of the former portion was to demonstrate that the district has been proactive about the budget over the past several years.
What has the district already done?
The measures included:
- A series of attritions that included the reduction of seven full time staff and savings of $814,613 in 2011-12.
- Elimination of several part-time and support staff positions.
- The negotiation of the $400,000 teachers giveback in exchange for no furloughs or layoffs through 2012-13.
- Reduction in overtime and substitutes.
- Reduction in school services such as late buses, summer courses and programs, conferences, and alternative education.
- 10 percent reduction in all building budgets along with discontinuation of certain softwares and subscriptions.
- Revenue enhancements including summer school tuition increases and facility rentals.
- A district wide energy management initiative ($100,000).
- Change in collection of delinquent real estate taxes ($300,000).
- Joining the MCIU prescription consortium and Bucks County Benefits Consortium ($185k - $329k savings).
- The creation of a Culture of Involvement steering committee to help raise budgetary awareness amongst all district employees.
What is the district doing now?
Pladus also said the district's administrators are constantly looking for opportunities in the following areas: the evaluation of educational programs; procurement and facilities, including transportation consortiums and in-house versus contracting services; personnel and organization, including further consolidations of positions; and alternative revenue sources, including PTOs, the sale of naming rights, selling or leasing district properties, and grant and donation development.
What might the district do?
However, Pladus said that even with the on-going efforts, the district will have to consider more drastic options to close the deficit.
Pladus presented the following eight options, saying that while many are unlikely, all options are on the table:
- A waiving of class size policy from 22-24 at the elementary level and 28 at the secondary level to allow for more furloughs.
- Restructuring administrative personnel and special education/pupil services to reduce staff.
- Restructuring the operation of Robbins Park.
- A shared services transportation agreement with Springfield Area School District.
- Elimination of the middle school Latin program.
- Eliminate in-house PSAT testing ($10,000), after school and evening district subsidy for SAT prep program ($30,000), and imposition of Senior High student activity fee ($45,000).
- Elimination of Driver's Ed.
- Explore sale or lease of school property.
Finally, Pladus gave four options for continuing to balance budgets beyond 2012-13: rebidding the district's Aramark contract, out-sourcing services, a possible district-wide grade realignment, and a reexamination of all non-mandated programs and positions.
Board President Joe Chmielewski closed the meeting with a statement of his own.
"We hold tightly to things that we love, and we don't want to give those things up when we know they've been so successful over a long number of years," Chmielewski said. "At the same time, we're dealing with budget constraints, as all school districts are… we will do everything we can to hold on to what is near and dear to us, but at the same time we need to balance the books."
The board will hold another budgetary session on April 9th, when administrators say they will go through the budget line by line to analyze expenditures.