VARDEN – The monthly meeting of the Western Wayne School Board was filled with many hot topics, particularly the district's budget for the 2014-15 school year.

VARDEN – The monthly meeting of the Western Wayne School Board was filled with many hot topics, particularly the district's budget for the 2014-15 school year.

The tentative budget for the upcoming school year shows an estimated $40,823,502 in available resources, establishing an estimated tax millage of 15.83.

In a motion to approve the tentative budget, it says there is a “two percent discount if the whole amount of the tax is paid within two months after the date of the tax notice; payment at face if the tax is paid within two months following the end of the discount period; penalty of 10 percent on all taxes not paid within four months after the date of the tax notice.”

Further insight

The revenues the district expects to see is as follows:

• Local sources-$25,678,018

• State sources-$13,400,484

• Federal sources-$745,000

These total $39,823,502. The district also has $1,000,000 in reserves if needed, making the total $40,823,502.

Real estate mills for the 2013-14 school year was 14.915.

“This is our tentative budget,” said board member Donald McDonough. “We carry within that six percent increase and we're short half a million [of being event].”

He said with the proposed 15.83 millage, there's around a $91 increase in school taxes for an property assessed at $100,000.

“It depends on your assessment,” he explained. “We are continuing to work to see what we can do. We've made some cuts, but times are tough.”

Missing funds

The nearly $2 million the district is owed from by state through PLAN CON doesn't help.

The PLAN CON process is what public schools follow when undergoing a major building project.

If followed, the district is allowed to receive reimbursement from the state for construction costs.

Western Wayne took part in this process prior to construction of the EverGreen School and secured loans based on the fact that this funding would be present.

The board said they wouldn't have entered into the “construction and bond securing process” if they thought the state wouldn't follow through on its part of the obligation.

McDonough said that the state has paid three school districts “at random” the money they are owed through PLAN CON and not in order of project completion.

“We are entitled to that money by law,” he stated. “They are playing politics with that money in Harrisburg.”

He added that where Western Wayne is with the budget now, the outlook is grim.

“How can we make decisions when we don't know what the state will give us?” McDonough questioned. “We have to find a way to balance that out.”

He added they are trying to hold on as long as they can to approve the final budget so they can find out what they are getting.

“It's pretty simple,” McDonough stated. “We didn't break the law; we followed it. If we have to have our budget by June 30 then the state should too.”

Finding solutions

“Again, this is only a tentative budget,” said board member Doris Pliss. “We are hoping for some turnaround and are spending hours trying to come up with a solution.”

She added if the district were to experience a catastrophic event, they wouldn't have the money to cover it.

Board President Alvin Hollister said at this point it's more probable than possible that they won't get the money from PLAN CON this school year.

McDonough stated he has spoken with different school districts dealing with a similar situation, including Carbondale Area and Mid Valley. They are trying to find ways to get the money and one is to sue for it as a group.

Right now, there are only discussions taking place. McDonough also said they may end up spending funds on attorneys to sue the state.

Hollister added the district's attorney has a rate of $150 an hour. If suing becomes a reality, doing so as a group would be the best option.

“It's at the point where we don't know what to do,” he said. “The state has the money, but they aren't giving it to us.”

“The payments have been withheld since 2012,” added board member AJ Gaudenzi. “Your best bet is to contact Governor Tom Corbett and ask what he's doing with the money that is owed to the taxpayers, the board and the students.”

Hollister said they pushed the final budget adoption to June 26 to allow for paperwork to be completed and for the hope the state passes its budget in time.

“By chance the money from PLAN CON comes through, the board is allowed to re-open the budget,” said board member Gary Podunajec.

“This is a tentative for 30 days and we're going beyond that,” added McDonough.”This is still an open budget.”

The tentative budget passed by a vote of 7-1, with Gaudenzi voting no. Board member Donald Olsommer Jr. was absent from the meeting.