Compromise school budget proposed in Halifax

HALIFAX, Pa. (WHTM) — Administrators in the Halifax Area School District are trying to meet in the middle when it comes to a heated budget battle.

On Thursday, the district’s superintendent presented the school board with a new budget plan aimed at sparing teacher jobs and major programs while slashing several hundred thousand dollars from original deficit projections.

At roughly $19.8 million, the new budget would still include a deficit of $321,794, which is down from $679,018 projected in a previous draft budget. According to superintendent Dr. Michele Orner, the compromise plan could be achieved without a tax increase by dipping into the district’s fund balance. However, the proposal also includes possible property tax increase scenarios in which the district would pay a portion of the deficit from its fund balance and local taxpayers would make up the rest.

The new budget reduces expenditures by maximizing attrition, specifically within the middle school English language arts program. Cost-saving moves would include not filling an expected teaching vacancy after a pending retirement and shifting duties of teachers within the middle and high schools. Other savings are realized by eliminating an administrative janitorial/maintenance position and trimming the driver’s education program, which would still be offered at a cost to students.

After school administrators In January presented a draft 2016-17 budget of $20.1, which included a tax increase over the previous school year, the school board requested to see an alternative cost-cutting budget that did not include a tax increase. That proposal of $17 million includes massive cuts to academics, arts and athletics, among other programs. The plan also would include the elimination of several teacher positions, resulting in larger class sizes district-wide.

When word of the proposal spread through the community, several hundred people attended a school board meeting to hear details and offer both support and criticism.

A final budget vote is expected in June.

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