By Alan Johnson
The Public School Code of Pennsylvania requires that each local school district in the state develop and pass a budget for the coming school year. The first step in this process is for the school board to accept and approve a “working” budget that must be submitted to the state no later than May 31, 2012.
Once the working budget is approved, it is posted for public review, and then revisions can and will be made by the administration and the school board over a period of 30 days, to arrive at a final budget that must be adopted no later than June 30, 2012.
In Pennsylvania, the fiscal year for school districts begins on July 1. The final budget, as well as the “working” budget proposal MUST be balanced before it is submitted to the state. Public school districts may not operate on a deficit budget.
During most years, the working budget is fairly close, if not identical to, the final budget. However, in years where there is a good deal of uncertainty or where the school district finds itself in a very tight budget situation, there are frequently changes made to the working budget before it is approved by the school board as the final budget.
We find ourselves in that situation in the this year. Our budgetary distress is due primarily to two causes: significant cuts to our funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the inequities in the process whereby charter school tuitions are withheld from our district monies. This double loss of revenues has put us in the difficult position of needing to make significant budget cuts in order to achieve a final, balanced budget by June 30.
In order to have a balanced working budget, as school district administrators we are sometimes forced to propose very severe budget cuts knowing that program or personnel eliminations can be modified before the final budget is passed. In order to modify some of the more drastic proposed measures, the school board aided by administrative support, will do the hard work of digging deeper and finding alternatives for cost savings that still allows us to produce a balanced final budget.
This year some of the proposed reductions that are in the working budget are very severe indeed. The initial proposal to suspend kindergarten classes has been reversed and the board is committed to maintaining that vital program for the 2012-13 year. But the working budget that the board adopted on April 30, 2012 currently contains a significant reduction in transportation, school hours and several other programs. It is important to understand that these options can be modified as we continue to work toward a final budget. Finding the right balance of expenditures and reductions needed to achieve a final balanced budget is always difficult and, this year, is especially painful.
I want to assure everyone involved in the Woodland Hills community that the school board and the administration are working non-stop to find a budget formula that will allow us to continue to provide the quality service that our community deserves while also making sure that we operate within our fiscal means.
I simply ask that each and every one concerned about the Woodland Hills School District take the time to understand that the budget process is fluid and subject to changes and alterations as conditions and circumstances evolve.
Simply because something is in the working budget, or out of it, does not mean that it will remain that way in the final budget. We will continue to update the district web site to keep you informed of the budget progress through this difficult time.
Above all, I want to thank you for your continued support of the Woodland Hills School District.
The Wolverine spirit and determination will prevail!