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Budget woes could be healed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget

The Salisbury Township School board held a meeting of the operations committee Feb. 3 via Zoom.

The evening’s agenda was very light, the focus being on Chief Financial Officer Michael Taylor’s preliminary budget presentation.

Much of the information was repeated from earlier presentations on the district’s financial standing heading into the next school year; however, several hours before the committee meeting Gov. Tom Wolf made a statement regarding the state’s expenditures that could affect the Salisbury school district’s budget for 2021-2022 significantly.

Wolf’s budget presented the afternoon of Feb. 3 accounted for a $1.53 billion increase to the basic education funding formula statewide. For Salisbury, that would mean an increase in district revenue by $1.44 million, which is a 57.28 percent increase over last year’s budget.

In order to cover this windfall for Pennsylvania schools, the governor is proposing an income tax increase that would take it from 3.07 percent to 4.49 percent.

Board member Sarah Nemitz inquired about how likely it would be the state budget would pass in this form and about whether or not it seemed likely this increase would be offered in perpetuity.

Taylor responded by mentioning it seemed likely the budget would pass in the manner Wolf explained. In addition, he mentioned the increased amount for Salisbury would likely be examined on a year-to-year basis, and while it may not increase exponentially as it might for 2021-2022, the amount allotted to the district is at least unlikely to decrease.

Taylor also put a firm focus on the numbers for charter school enrollments in the district to shed light on why students attending charter schools comes at a high cost for Salisbury.

In brick and mortar charter schools, there are 49 non-special education students and five special education students enrolled, up from 47 and three respectively last year. In regional charters, there are 27 non-special education students and one special education student, up from 19 and 0 in 2020-2021.

Also seeing an influx in enrollments are cyber charter schools with 26 non-special education students and eight special education students, up from 20 and four from last year.

For each non-special education student enrolled in a charter school, the fee to the Salisbury Township School District is $15,425.18 and for each special education student the price tag is $35,461.66. Using these numbers, and the district’s current allowable taxation rate, it takes four median residential property’s taxes to support just one non-special education student and at least 10 median residential property’s taxes to support one special education student.

Taylor said if Wolf’s budget is allowed to pass, it will assist a great deal with expenditure issues throughout the district as well as help to close the $1.2 million deficit written into the 2021-2022 budget for Salisbury.