LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County School District's 2012-13 budget continues to be a work in progress as administrators look for avenues to reduce a $1.66 million deficit before the June 30 deadline.
During a special budget meeting held on Monday, Superintendent James Estep and Chief Financial Officer Sean Daubert reported several more cost-cutting moves in an effort to bring that deficit down. To date, Estep said cuts through attrition and other avenues have reduced the budget deficit to $1,052,000, a number that he says would still necessitate the school board raising taxes again.
"We're running out of options (to cut) now without getting into programs," Estep said during an interview on Wednesday. "Administration has recommended consideration of a tax increase but I'm not sure the board is committed to that at this time. In order to avert a tax increase we offered potential cuts to some non-mandated programs that could be used to cut the gap. But at this point we can't get five board members to agree to cut those non-mandated programs. We've managed to go from a $1.66 million deficit to just over a little over a million dollars through cuts."
Among those cuts, Estep said, is the elimination of three teaching positions at the secondary level through attrition. He also pointed to the retirement of Mifflin County Junior High School Principal Dr. Joseph McGinnis, who will not be replaced.
"We're going to move an assistant high school principal to that position and then we received board consent to roll the responsibility of dean of students into the athletic director's position."
Estep said those moves, in addition to the three teaching positions being eliminated, will save the district $131,000 in salary and benefit expenses.
"At the last board meeting, they approved another administrative position cut that will save an additional $70,000," Estep reported. "We are also reducing our purchase of professional development by $35,000, reducing a line item for summer tutoring by $50,000, and eliminating the district's contribution to field trip transportation expenses, which amount to $71,000."
Estep said he has nowhere else to go in terms of cutting expenses.
"I did not schedule another special meeting," he said. "I didn't see the value in it. I've given everything that I can give them as options for cuts. They will have to decide on further cuts or whether or not to close the remaining gap through a revenue increase."
Daubert said in accordance with state law, the board must approve a preliminary budget at its May 24 voting session and have a final spending plan in place no later than June 30. The board will vote on the final budget at its June 28 business session.