The latest word on the budget process in Nazareth Area School District: Something has to give, but the administration and school board will wait for more information to decide what.
District Superintendent Victor Lesky, who gave a presentation on current and projected enrollment and staffing levels at Monday's meeting of the district school board, said the administration will pursue ways other than tapping the district's fund balance -- roughly equivalent to a savings account for a private individual -- to close a projected deficit in the district's proposed $69.2 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Lesky did not commit to specifics, noting that things could change between now and May, when the budget -- which includes a 2 percent property tax increase -- is scheduled to receive final approval from the school board.
“It's still February,” he said, several times.
The details, according to Lesky:
- The projected deficit grew by $180,000, to about $730,000, after Gov. Tom Corbett released his preliminary state budget proposal last week, thanks to a cut in an education grant program that Nazareth received in the past and budgeted for again this year.
- Staffing cuts or furloughs could happen, but first the administration wants to see how many teachers submit retirement letters by the March 1 deadline. Positions of teachers who retire might not be filled.
- The school board and administration still want to pursue a wage freeze or other spending-reduction measures with members of two unions: The Nazareth Area Education Association, which represents the district's teachers, and the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents custodians and other members of the district's support staff.
The administration met on Monday with Teamsters representatives and plans further meetings with them, but the teachers union has not yet replied to a letter that Lesky sent, at the direction of the school board last month.
- The budget outlook could change when Northampton County's revised tax assessment figures are released on April 1.
The school board gave preliminary approval to the budget proposal last month. State law requires final approval by June 30, but Lesky expects Nazareth to beat that deadline by a month or so.