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School board approves South Butler budget

Retiring teachers won't be replaced

While the final budget numbers have changed slightly since last month's proposed version, taxpayers in the South Butler County School District still won't see a tax increase in the next school year.

The board voted 8-1 Wednesday night to approve the 2020-21 district budget in the amount of $36.2 million with a $531,000 deficit related to financial challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed $36.6 million budget passed last month contained a $779,000 deficit.

Pam Mondock, district business manager, said three retiring teachers and one full-time police officer who resigned will not be replaced.

The $531,000 deficit will be covered by the budget's $2.3 million unassigned fund balance, Mondock said.

The state Department of Education originally said the district could not raise taxes. But Mondock said that rule recently changed and the board could have raised taxes to cover the deficit or replace the teachers and police officer.

“With people being unemployed, there was no appetite to raise taxes, and I definitely think that was the right course of action,” Mondock said.

Regarding tax revenue, she said while taxes collected from January, February and March were only down 5 percent, school taxes paid in April alone were down 40 percent compared to April 2019.

She further explained the amount collected by the district in the second quarter will reveal whether taxpayers have financially rebounded from the pandemic based on their ability to pay taxes.

David Foley, district superintendent, said no courses or programs were cut in the final budget.

He said the retirees include a teacher from the intermediate elementary school, a gifted education teacher who served the primary and intermediate elementary schools, and a chemistry teacher at Knoch High School.

According to Foley, class size will not increase due to the attrition of the teaching positions.

“We're going to have to do some creative scheduling, but we think we can handle it internally,” Foley said.

The board has not taken any action on the completion of several renovation and upgrade projects discussed last year after a feasibility study regarding the district's needs.

Foley said he and Mondock have been working hard to find ways to make the budget more efficient during a difficult time.

“We have challenges because of the closures and we are empathetic to the challenges our families have been going through,” Foley said.

Board member George Zacherl was the lone dissenter on the budget. He also voted against the proposed budget last month.