The WCASD Property & Finance Committee met on Monday, April 17. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation of the proposed budget for the 2023-2024 school year by WCASD Director of Business Affairs, Mr. John Scully.
Following Mr. Scully’s presentation, the Property & Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve the proposed 23-24 budget of $302,129,870, which reflects a 1.7% increase over the current budget. The proposed budget requires no tax increase in Chester County and only a 0.1% tax increase in Delaware County. WCASD continues to have one of the lowest property tax millage rates in Chester County. The final budget will be presented at the May P&F meeting with a final vote for full board approval in the May 24 board meeting.
TPS RESOURCE: For information about how school district budgets work and related terminology, see Together for Public School’s “District Budget Basics” resource from last year.
Recently, WCASD’s budgeting practices came under fire due to a state audit in which PA Auditor General Timothy DeFoor criticized how the district has historically handled fund assignments and Act 1 exception procedures that govern tax increases. WCASD disputed the audit findings in what Mr. Scully characterized in the committee meeting as a miscommunication between the district and the Auditor General (read more here, from Jan. 30, 2023)
As evidenced in the above article, prices have increase and school districts are trying to balance their costs.
“The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials said districts have needed to save money, as costs for things like pensions and charter school tuition have risen by several billion dollars in the last few years.” It was also stated, “Special education expenditures grew to nearly $6 billion in 2020-21 and only about $1 billion was funded by the state,” the group said in a Wednesday press release. “Charter school tuition costs grew to nearly $2.7 billion in 2020-21 with no state reimbursement.”
TPS RESOURCE: To understand the WCASD Audit, see Together for Public School’s “Understanding the WCASD Audit” resource.
In light of the audit and misinformation that has circulated regarding WCASD budgeting practices, Mr. Scully took time during the budget presentation to review important details to help the public better understand the budget, the audit, and the impact of rising costs and unfunded mandates on our district’s budget.
“If the school board and the district show a need and can qualify for the exceptions they can apply for the exceptions. What we were criticized for was applying for exceptions when they said we had budgetary reserves. They called them budgetary reserves, I call them fund balance, assignments, or commitments, that could have been utilized so we would not have to apply for these exceptions. Act 1 legislation does not state that. Act 1 legislation states that if your budget is not balanced and you qualify for an exception, you can apply for exceptions. And PDE granted those exceptions. So that was part of the auditor General's report was that we should have never applied for the exceptions because … this board did have enough in reserves but were assigned or committed for other purposes other than just increasing taxes or decreasing taxes.” -John Scully, WCASD Director of Business Affairs
Mr. Scully also highlighted cost-saving actions WCASD is taking such as working with department managers to identify sustainable expense reductions, working with WCASD’s benefits provider to review healthcare industry trends, and working to identify grants that may be available to offset costs.
Click here to view Mr. Scully’s budget presentation in the Property and Finance Committee meeting agenda packet. To watch the entire 4/18 Property and Finance Committee meeting, view the recording available on the WCASD YouTube channel.
The next meetings will be held:
Monthly Full Board Meeting: Monday 4/24/2023 7:00 pm
Combined Pupil Services and Education Committee Meeting: Monday 5/8/2023 6:30 PM (Pupil Services) and 7:00 PM (Education)