Northgate looks to stimulus funds

Stimulus money and reserve funds will help a deficit of nearly $1 million in the Northgate School District’s proposed 2009-10 budget.

According to Northgate superintendent Dr. Reggie Bonfield, the proposed budget shows expenditures of about $19.1 million and revenues of about $18.2 million, leaving a deficit of $960,167.

Bonfield said that he hopes to recover some of that deficit with the anticipated federal stimulus money and that the district will transfer the remaining money from the reserve funds rather than increasing the property tax millage rate.

School board president Ruth Lorey also said that she was "all for not raising taxes."

Bonfield said that the 2.2 percent increase in the expenditures is in line with the 2.9 percent increase last year, as well as the 2.4 percent increase the year before that.

He attributed the increase in expenditures to different factors including teacher salaries, charter schools, and utilities.

Bonfield said that the teachers’ salaries -- which accounts for approximately 62 percent of the district’s budget, according to director of finance and operations Maryilnn Berner -- will increase by $350,000. Expenses in the budget for charter schools will increase by $100,000, and utilities by $65,000, according to Bonfield.

Revenues also have increased, however. A $57,000 increase in property tax revenue, as well as a $177,000 increase in state funding for basic education, are included in the budget, Bonfield said.

The proposed budget shows a decrease in the amount budgeted for pension contributions for teachers. Last year the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) employer contribution rate was 7.13 percent. It decreased to 4.76 percent this year, but Bonfield warned of a statewide increase in retirement contributions expected to hit districts in Pennsylvania in 2012-13, when the retirement level is expected to triple, he said.

Officials hope at least part of the budget deficit can be funded with some of the $945,353 the district is expected to receive from the federal government.

"We are trying to figure out how to offset costs with the stimulus money," Bonfield said. Although there are stipulations on how some of the funds can be used, the district may have some latitude in spending the rest.

Board member Dr. Shannon Smithey said that that stimulus money may be able to pay for some of the district’s contributions to the A.W. Beattie Career Center.

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