PA school districts look to cash stash to balance budgets
June 13, 2013
HARRISBURG — As business manager for the Mercer Area School District, Mike Stabile has spent the last several years budgeting around a myriad of factors.
Among that list: a school board that won’t raise taxes, state level cuts and increased future costs for charter school students and pension payments — and the district is down nine teachers from the last few budgets.
“The more cuts you make after the first two years, the larger impact it’s going to have on the students,” Stabile said
So this year, Mercer’s proposed budget includes about $400,000 taken from reserve funds, money that will keep the district from laying off more staff or cutting programs. Reserves act as a rainy day fund for school districts, and for Mercer, the rainy day has arrived.
“That’s what we have it for, to keep the school district moving on,” he said.
Should the board pass the proposed budget in its current form, Mercer will have between $750,000 and $800,000 leftover in its reserve funds. That money can provide a cash flow cushion, or potentially fill future budget gaps down the road, as it manages a $16 million annual budget.
But that’s just the story behind one fund balance. Altogether, Pennsylvania schools hold more than $3.8 billion in fund balances, according to newly released data from the state Department of Education. That’s about $300 million more saved up than this time last year, when districts had some $3.5 billion in reserves.