WALLENPAUPACK - Still pending final adoption, the Wallenpaupack school taxes for the 2019-2020 school year are expected to rise a little over two percent. This would be the smallest increase in three years for both Wayne County and Pike County taxpayers living in the school district that overlaps both sides of the lake by the same name.

On May 13, the school board passed the draft budget, which is now subject to 30 days of public review. Final adoption is expected at their June 17 meeting. The budget totals $76,253.200 in expenditures and $75,449,019 in revenue, with a fund balance support of $804,191, which makes both sides of the ledger equal.

Subject to adjustment by the time of the final budget, the anticipated millage rate for Pike Council will be 75.8000, up by 1.6980 for Wayne County it will be 15.3800, an increase of 0.3140.

The two counties have widely separate millage figures but bring in roughly the same revenue for like parcels of real estate. This is due to a difference in the way real estate is assessed and market value figured in each county, and must be balanced by an equalization formula, calculated by the state. Wayne County’s share of tax liability decreased by 0.09% while Pike County’s share of tax liability increased by the same amount.

The tax relief per Homestead and Farmstead-approved properties is $191.97, a decrease of .27 cents from the prior year.

Budget quandary

Superintendent Michael Silsby, in his budget presentation, again noted the quandary school districts across Pennsylvania face, in that they must be law adopt a budget by June 30, the same time the state must adopt a budget. The problem is that the school district is always uncertain what state revenue to expect.

The proposed school budget is based on the Governor’s proposed budget. Given the favorable state economy, Silsby said he was hopeful that the legislature will pass the budget easily, and there could even be surplus allocated to the school districts. Pennsylvania currently has a surplus of approximately $200 million as the new state fiscal year nears.

Wallenpaupack has opted to stay within the index assigned them by the PA Department of Education, which limits the amount of tax increase that can be asked without a special exception approved for certain budget categories, or by referendum.

Compared to others

He noted that Wallenpaupack Area School District continues to have the lowest millage rate of the three district serving Pike County, and second to the lowest of six that serve portions of Wayne County (Susquehanna Area School District has the least milage).

New anticipated expenditures include $612,254 more for salaries. This considers the newly adopted staff contracts, and change in staffing personnel. There is also $466,704 added for pensions, $835,706 for health benefits, $282,555 for new staff and $107,643 in debt.

The district’s debt schedule spreads out over $5.6 million for each year until 2025-2026 when debt drops to over $2.9 million, before an anticipated zero debt in 2026-2027. Silsby stated that no large capital projects that would increase the debt are expected in the next few years.

Staff changes
There are 3.5 Special Education Teacher positions and one College and Career Counselor position being added. One of the Special Education roles is an Emotional Support position for the South Elementary School (grades K-2) will be funded by Wallenpaupack rather than paying tuition through a consortium with other districts.

Once the new curriculum academies begin, there will be four guidance counselors; one for the Freshman Academy and each of other three academies will have a guidance counselor and a career & college coordinator. The district will have a year to become acclimated and trained, for the ongoing high school academies to follow.

Three teachers positions are being eliminated, through attrition.
The next WASD School Board meeting is set for Monday, June 17, 2019 at 6 p.m. in the High School Library. A committee meeting precedes it at 5:30 p.m.