GROVE CITY – Grove City school board members on got a preview Monday of how the budget for the 2021-22 school year is coming together.

“It’s gonna be driven by your questions and input,” Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch said at the special finance committee meeting, which was conducted virtually.

Finch shared slides from a presentation that’s in the works, asking board members to use that information to help them prepare for a budget discussion at the next work session, which is set for 7 p.m. May 3.

The presentation will be posted on the district’s website before the voting meeting, which is 7 p.m. May 10.

The report covers major categories for revenues and expenses plus five-year data for staffing, enrollment and charter school tuition.

The district is approaching the closeout of the Hillview Elementary School renovation and expansion project, Finch said.

The final estimate is just under $36.3 million, which is roughly $1.3 million under budget compared to the contracts the board approved in 2018.

“That’s good news,” he said.

And debt service is dropping because the district will soon be shedding interest payments on the middle school. Construction was completed on a new middle school building in 2011.

It’s too soon to decide if property taxes will go up, but Finch explained the district’s Act 1 index for next school year.

The Act 1 index determines the maximum amount that school districts in Pennsylvania can increase property taxes without voter approval or a special exception from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

For 2021-22, Grove City Area School District’s Act 1 index is 3.9 percent, which is equal to 2.48 mills.

Current property taxes are 63.98 mills. The last time real estate taxes in the district went up was for the 2018-19 school year with an increase of 1.98 mills.

The board will be looking at how several different possible tax rate scenarios could impact the district, and they must be transparent, Finch said.

The district’s largest expenses are salaries and benefits, which make up about 77 percent of the spending.

“We do our work through people,” Finch said.

Expenses for the upcoming school year are projected at $41,070,065, roughly a 0.99 percent increase compared to this year.

School officials are also looking at finances related to COVID-19. That includes a various pandemic-related grants that the district has received.

The district is encouraging most students to attend classes in-person next year, though the remote option will still be available, Finch said.

District leaders will be having more discussions about COVID-19 in the coming months as they continue to monitor local virus numbers.

Lastly, Finch asked board members to keep in mind that the district will soon be negotiating a new transportation contract.

He is concerned about how that could play out about learning that Pittsburgh schools don’t have enough bus drivers.

Some of those students are being advised to use public transportation because there’s a lack of school bus services, said Ryan Thomas, the board’s vice president.

School districts in Pennsylvania must adopt a final budget by June 30.

The budget presentation will be posted online in advance of the May 10 meeting at www.grovecity.k12.pa.us

The district’s website will also have information about how to connect to the virtual meetings plus the meeting agendas.

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