The Abington School Board approved the district’s 2013-14 preliminary budget at its meeting Tuesday night.
The preliminary budget weighs in at $137.33 million — $3.86 million or 3 percent higher than last year’s budget. The biggest single increase in the preliminary budget is something the board can’t control: mandated benefits, the school district’s contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).
This year, the district must contribute 16.93 percent to PSERS — 16 percent of that is the pension rate and the remainder goes to health insurance premium assistance. According to the website, PSERS is also funded through investment earnings and mandatory member contributions.
The district paid $16.52 million in mandated benefits last year, and that figure will likely jump by about 20 percent to $20.2 million for the 2013-14 budget.
In the preliminary budget, salaries come in at $76 million, a 1 percent increase over last year; negotiated benefits will cost $13 million, up 0.23 percent; and the non-salary/non-benefit costs will actually go down by about $617,000 or 2 percent. Superintendent Amy Sichel lauded facilities supervisor Stephen Saile for his help in reducing the cost of the last item by increasing the energy efficiency of the school district’s buildings.
In the preliminary budget, the district will use about $10.58 million in allocated fund balance to cover the gap; it used $10.17 million last year.
The budget is missing a lot of numbers, like official numbers from the feds, the state and credits due to gambling revenue, the latter of which should be available in May.
Due to Act 1, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, school districts are limited on how much they can raise taxes. This year, Abington is capped at a 1.7 percent increase, as are Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland, Jenkintown and Cheltenham.
Incidentally, a 1.7 percent increase would bump up the millage rate from 27.80 to 28.27. In real terms, a homeowner with a house assessed at $150,000 would pay about $4,240 in taxes annually with the increase, up about $70 over last year’s bill.
But … the direction of the board is that it doesn’t want to raise taxes, Sichel said.
It’s still early in the budget process.
Check back later for an update.