With an $11 million increase projected in costs to the Armstrong School District in the coming fiscal year, the school board is pondering whether or not to stay within the state index of 1.7 mills in property tax increases for the coming year. The preliminary budget of $97 million was unveiled in a board meeting last night.
Business manager John Zenone told the board he anticipates employee salaries going up $1.7 million next year and benefits to increase $3.1 million. That’s a 64 percent hike in employee costs alone. He also expects increases of $411,000 in school supplies, $353,000 in transportation, and $297,000 in tuition for vo-tech students.
Compunding the district’s problems would be the opening of a charter school in Elderton. Zenone told the board that if the Everlasting Elderton school opens, the Armstrong district would basically lose all of the money it saved by closing Elderton Junior-Senior High School this year. Since school districts across the state foot the bill for charter schools, Armstrong’s share would be about $339,000. But host districts pay more, and Armstrong’s debt to the state would increase to $2.4 million. The board is in the cooling off period after a required public hearing on the charter school, and must approve or disapproive it in order for the school to go forward. However, if the board rejects it, the charter school could appeal to the state Education Department.
The school board did not vote on whether or not to keep its budget within the state index, but must do so before January 31st.