Do school board members understand the budget can be reopened if necessary even after it’s approved?

June 5 – With reporting that the Chambersburg Area School Board yesterday voted 9-0 to approve a 4% increase in next year’s budget because the state funding is still unclear, some people are wondering if it would be possible to reopen the budget once the state settles its budget? 

School board directors are allowed to reopen budgets in the state. 

The problem is the timing of when budgets are due. School board budgets are due before the state completes its budget, which creates this uncertainty in the funding numbers. 

As a result, many school boards throughout Pennsylvania guess at what they could be getting from the state and that assumption often leads to increased taxes for the community members. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “You’re paying more at the pump. You’re paying more for groceries, you’re paying more on your credit card bills. There’s shrinkflation. I’ll wait until the Pennsylvania budget is complete and we see what kind of dollars we’re getting for school districts here, but odds are very good there’s going to be more than enough cash in the Chambersburg School District or Waynesboro or Tuscarora, wherever we are here. These school districts can reopen the budget and they can dial this number back if they get a big fat check from the state.”

“That’s right,” attorney Clint Barkdoll confirmed. “Now, what’s interesting about Chambersburg is that it sounds like the budget they’ve passed is a deficit budget. So they are contemplating some kind of a bigger payout from the state and they’re the only district I’m aware of that’s operating that way. So in other words, if the state subsidy comes in more, they’re going to say that the two and a half million dollar deficit could be balanced now, with that state subsidy. But what if it comes in at three and a half million or 4 million? Then they’re back above water. In theory, should that not justify peeling back the tax increase?”

Additionally, a PA House committee passed legislation along party lines yesterday to cap the reimbursements for charter cyber schools at $8,000 per student.

Barkdoll said, “It looks like that could pass. It’s not necessarily part of the budget, but it’s moving on a parallel track. It’s been reported that if this law passes, it collectively will save school districts over $530 million a year. So there again, there’s another area in conjunction with the state subsidy in the budget if this cyber charter school package gets through, that’s going to save your local school district huge amounts of money, easily hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can have some large districts that will save millions from that package.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “I would say people, even school board directors may be unaware of this ability to reopen the budget because when they go in, if they’re not well versed in that, they may have no idea that that could be a possibility. So I think it’s a matter of educating not only the taxpayers who should raise their collective voices about it, but also, the school board directors who I would point out are also taxpayers in their community.”

Barkdoll said, “Again, school board members in Pennsylvania, these are volunteers. They’re all trying to do their best and in good faith, doing what they can to manage these districts, but we’re talking about big numbers here and when you look at the state subsidy, then you throw in this cyber charter school reform, you’re looking at scenarios here that there may be a lot more money suddenly in your budget that you did not contemplate when you passed it right now because the state hasn’t passed its budget yet.”