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AASD misses balanced budget

District would have been close without COVID-19 impact

The pandemic has dashed the Altoona Area School District board members’ hopes of a nearly balanced budget for 2020-21.

Board Secretary Camilla Houy said at Monday’s board meeting that the district would have been close to balancing the budget based on its “pre-COVID” numbers. It now estimates a $3.2 million loss in revenue due to the pandemic.

However, Houy said this year’s “post-COVID” deficit — about $5.7 million — was still an improvement over prior years, a decrease of about $300,000 from that of the approved budget for 2019-20.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Prijatelj said after the meeting that this year, the district “was significantly closer to a balanced budget than it had been in six years.”

The district plans to reduce total expenditures by nearly $2 million compared with the previous two years, down to slightly less than $111 million. Part of that reduction is a decrease of $1 million in salaries and benefits because of pay differences between long-term teachers who retired and their replacements, Houy said. The district also budgeted cuts of $300,000 for supplies.

Prijatelj said the expenditures would actually be closer to $107 million with contingency funding added.

Board President Sharon Bream said it was good that the district was able to “hold the line and cut expenses.”

Citing a tax collections report, she said she was surprised the district saw an increase in revenue from earned income tax and business privilege/mercantile tax.

Board Treasurer Susan Franks said that because the district extended due dates for tax collection, she believes the increase was due to timing: money normally collected earlier in the year has flowed in now.

She also said that because a large portion of employers are essential services in Blair County, there were fewer layoffs than in other areas, meaning the tax base didn’t shrink comparatively.

Franks said tax collection for the next quarter is more concerning.

Prijatelj echoed these concerns after the meeting, saying that the business privilege/mercantile tax will “take a hit” in the fourth quarter.

Houy said auditors will return to finalize financial numbers in mid-October.

Mirror Staff Writer Dom Cuzzolina is at 946-7428.

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