Hollidaysburg board delays tax hike decision

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Hollidaysburg Area School Board passed a first draft of a $50 million 2018-19 budget for public review, but the board has yet to decide how to fund it.

The action taken Wednesday meets the state-required 30-day public review window before final passage.

District Business Manager Susan Baker said the budget has a projected deficit of more than $1 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.

The first draft is to be displayed for public review on the district’s website and at the Clark Street administrative office.

It takes money from the fund balance to fix the deficit, which would reduce the district’s safety net to $8 million.

However, Baker said potential tax increases will be discussed at the board’s May 30 public meeting in the high school library.

The budget can be changed before its final passage, which is scheduled for June 13 to meet the state Department of Education’s deadline, Baker said.

The budget draft passed Wednes­day in a 7-1 vote. Lois Kaneshiki cast the no vote. The ninth member, Melissa Mitchell, was absent.

“We are approving a budget we don’t know how to pay for yet,” Kaneshiki said.

Baker said the approval was to meet the state’s requirement for the 30-day public review window, but Kaneshiki said the budget that is displayed should be the one the board intends to make final.

“Why would we present the public with a budget that we don’t know how to pay for?” Kaneshiki asked.

Expenses are increasing over last year. Contributing to the projected deficit in 2019 are salary increases ($428,000 or 1 percent from last year) and retirement contributions ($477,000), although the state is to reimburse the district for half of its retirement cost, Baker said.

Charter school tuition, tuition to the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center and investments in technology have also increased from last year’s budget.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435