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Carlisle Area School District

Pictured is the entryway to Carlisle High School.

The proposal to outsource the remaining instructional aides could come up for a vote before the Carlisle Area School Board as early as April 18.

How the board proceeds could hinge on the outcome of discussions planned for committee meetings scheduled for April 11.

That night, the policy/personnel committee could discuss whether the district should outsource the remaining 83 aides to ESS. Board committees typically meet the first and second Thursday of each month to consider whether to forward recommendations to the full board for a vote at the regular board meeting the third Thursday.

The budget/finance committee may also meet on April 11 where the proposed transition plan for the aides could be on the agenda. It is conceivable that the outcome of the policy/personnel committee could render any discussion on the transition plan moot.

Committee meetings are open for public input. Typically, the policy/personnel committee meets the first Thursday of each month. The reason for the move to the second Thursday in April would be to pair discussions on outsourcing the aides with whether to proceed with the transition plan that includes severance pay. Budget/finance committee meetings are typically held the second Thursday of each month.

Carlisle School Board meetings typically start at 7 p.m. in the large group instruction room of the Fowler building of Carlisle High School. Depending on the outcome of the April 11 committee meetings, there could be two votes taken on April 18, one on whether to outsource the aides and one on whether to approve the transition plan.

School board members Thursday were reviewing the budget for 2019-20 when they discussed the timing of the committee meetings and the votes on the outsourcing.

The board has to make a decision on the transition plan prior to taking a vote on May 16 on whether to approve the preliminary budget for next school year. District staff in the payroll and benefits office need time to make adjustments before the current academic year ends May 30, said Shawn Farr, district director of finance.

District administrators recommend the board outsource the remaining aides to save an estimated $600,000 in personnel costs in 2019-20. Most of the savings are derived from removing the positions from the district’s health insurance and pension rolls.

The draft budget for 2019-20 includes the outsourcing of the aides using a tiered compensation structure that could see some increases in the hourly wages to make up for part of what is lost in benefits.

Aside from the outsourcing, administrators recommend the board cut six teaching positions, restructure support staffing, delay the purchase of instructional licenses and reduce the number of student outside placements by four slots.

About $100,000 in savings can be carried over from the current year’s budget to 2019-20 if certain minor discretionary line-items are frozen and not given final approval for spending, said Owen Snyder, business operations manager.

On the revenue side, the draft budget calls for board members to hike the real estate tax by 3 percent, the maximum increase allowed under Act 1, to raise an additional $1,305,000.

Carlisle school district started its budget cycle with a projected $3.7 million shortfall in its $86.5 million 2019-20 budget. The combination of the 3-percent tax hike and proposed cuts in expenditure would reduce the shortfall to about $327,000, Snyder said. To close the shortfall and balance the budget, the administration recommends the board transfer $327,000 from unassigned reserve to the general fund.

In past years, the administration did not include in its revenue calculations proposed increases in the state basic education subsidy, Snyder said. Instead, the district erred on the side of caution and kept the subsidy projections flat because of uncertainty over whether state lawmakers would approve the governor’s budget.

This year, the district’s projections include a $250,000 increase in the subsidy for the district based on feedback administrators are getting from lawmakers, Snyder said.

School board member Rick Coplen called the $250,000 a safe estimate. “I’m in agreement that we should put it into the budget for now with the understanding it’s a moving target,” Coplen said. “It’s something for all of us to think about.”

Though hesitant to commit to the final numbers, Coplen said he supports using spending cuts, a tax increase and a limited drawdown of reserve funds to balance the budget.

“There is something that can help and that is more money from the state,” Coplen said. “There is movement in that direction.”

He urged fellow school board members and the public to lobby state lawmakers to increase the state share of public education funding.

“Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in the nation in the amount of state funding that goes to schools,” Coplen said. “Forty-sixth in the nation, that’s unacceptable.”

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