Keystone anticipates no tax increase

Clarion News Editor

Keystone School District Superintendent Shawn Algoe told school board members Monday the district won’t need a tax increase for the 2018-19 year.

This will be the fifth consecutive year the district has not had to resort to a tax increase to balance its operating budget.

Nor will the district draw down from its cash reserves to balance the budget.

“It’s a testament to this board – the community knows sometimes there needs to be a tax increase but they also know the board and the administration have a very unique budgeting style and we go through every penny and we provide a high-quality product,” Algoe told the school board.

The district has about $4.5 million in cash reserves. About $1.5 million of that total is unassigned.

About $2.5 million is considered “assigned” and another $250,000 is designed as “committed.”

Algoe told board members, “Over the course of time, we’ve seen our students’ scores improve, we’ve maintained the programs that are important to us such as music and art, we’ve kept those all intact.”

Over the past decade or so, the board, which has seen very little turn-over, and district administrators have set up informal accounts for building and grounds projects, technology improvements, trimmed employment through attrition and aggressively looked for cost-cutting opportunities in utilities and other operating expenses.

Board member Ken Swartfager, a 22-year member of the board, said prior to the meeting, “It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but it’s been worth it.”

Algoe explained there are numerous cost increases in the upcoming budget which are offset by lower expenses in other areas.

Also this upcoming year, Keystone anticipates making its final payments on its share of a bond debt at the Clarion County Career Center.

“After that, we are a debt-free district,” said Algoe.

The board will likely vote in May to advertise its intention to formally adopt the budget in June.

The budget must be submitted to the state Department of Education on June 30. As usual, public school districts often do not know the exact amount of their state funding until the legislature and governor approve the state budget.

That budget, by law, also is due June 30, but the legislature and governor often fail to meet that deadline. But 2018 is an election year for the House of Representatives, half the state Senate and the governor.

“I believe a (state) budget will be accomplished and accomplished on time this year,” said Algoe.