Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Ted Haselman cut to the chase Tuesday with community members:
If a failed 1% income tax levy revived for the May 4 ballot is rejected again it will cost the school district staff, student extracurriculars, and, very possibly, a large chunk of its students looking elsewhere for a more well-rounded education.
“I would argue our band students would go. I would argue that our students that are in our high-level academic classes, our gifted program…would go,” he said. “It’s not going to be just athletes. It’s going to be across-the-board mass exodus.”
Haselman made the grim assessment as he, P-D-Y Treasurer Matt Feasel, and Board of Education President Dr. Michael Mattin fielded questions from a group of over 50 village residents regarding the upcoming levy at a 90-minute town hall meeting held at Delta Middle School. The school administrators were joined by additional BOE members.
Feasel opened the town hall with a financial overview of the school district, saying administrators became aware through preparing the district’s five-year forecast that expenditures were exceeding revenue, triggering deficit spending. “So we started to prepare and cut back and watch every dollar that we spent very closely,” he said.
The five-year forecast predicts 2020-21 deficit spending at nearly $600,000; at $1.1 million in 2021-22; at $1.2 million in 2022-23; at $1.5 million in 2023-24; and at $1.9 million in 2024-25.
In answer to a question, Feasel said the current levy proposes a full 1% income tax because starting at a lesser amount would not rid the school district of the deficit.
“We’d have been back in two or three years asking for more money,” he said. “We’re just hoping with the income tax that we will experience some growth.”
Feasel said the P-D-Y school district has two separate sources of revenue: twice-yearly real estate taxes accounting for $5.5 million; and state-provided money. He said Delta shows minimal growth from real estates taxes, which he attributes, in part, to the village’s abatement program for construction and commercial and residential property. As for the state’s contribution, Feasel said P-D-Y schools receive only about $1,400 of a possible $6,020 provided per student due to the state’s consideration of both local wealth and the local ability to raise money when approving the amount a district receives.
“Actually, we’re receiving less money today than we were in the 2014-15 school year. The state hasn’t come through for us like they should,” he said.
In fact, revenue for the school district has increased by only one-half percent over the past five years, Feasel said, adding, “That’s pretty difficult to try and maintain, even with the cost of living…It’s very difficult to try and stay ahead of the curve.”
And the school district’s open enrollment program takes in $461,000 but sends out $905,000. The district also loses about $150,000 annually to charter schools, and spends about $42,000 daily each year simply to operate.
Haselman told those in attendance that, despite cutting $329,000 from this school year’s budget through the elimination of an administrator, three teachers, an aide, and a bus driver, expenditures continue to increase. Additionally, state revenue has gone flat.
“Basically, we’re on a fixed income at best. We are not living lavishly,” Haselman said.
He took a moment to praise what he called “a great education” that P-D-Y schools provide. “And we‘ve got the data to prove it,” he said.
But he warned that unless the school district increases revenue with the proposed income tax levy it will have to cut about 17 staff members and all extracurricular student activities which include clubs, athletics, field trips, FFA, and marching band.
“All of those things that bring opportunities and experience to our students will need to be removed because we can’t afford it,” Haselman added.
Student transportation would also be reduced, to the state minimum of a two-mile radius of the school building.
“No one wants these reductions and cuts,” Haselman told the town hall audience. “However, if you do not have the money you cannot continue to offer these items that are breaking the bank for us right now. We just can’t do it.”
Audience member Stephanie Incorvaia became emotional when describing how the potential cuts would affect each of her children in the school district. “Every single cut on that list will touch my family. And we would potentially be one of those families that would leave and take $36,000 from the (district),” she said.
Incorvaia said her research shows it would take 5-10 years for a school district in P-D-Y’s predicament to again thrive and be successful, and asked for Haselman’s estimate. He said he hasn’t done that research, since “we have focused everything on passing the levy versus what it would take to recover, should this not pass.”
The superintendent said it’s clear that students want to be involved in the extracurricular activities a failed levy will take away.
“Those are things that kids want. Those are things that kids need,” he said. “School is not just an 8 to 3; school is much more than that, with experiences and opportunities for kids…The $6,000 we’re receiving for the students that do open-enroll here – I don’t know if those kids would come back or not (and) that would be very, very detrimental.”
In closing, Haselman said the income tax would not affect Social Security benefits, and that a $50 credit is available every year for senior citizens.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.