Greater Latrobe’s budgetary timeline for the 2020-21 school year was unveiled at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, as district business administrator Dan Watson told school board members of several key upcoming Act 1-related dates.

District officials need to decide by Jan. 9 whether they want to adopt a resolution not to exceed the cost-of-living index or if they will follow a preliminary budget process. The cost-of-living index for next school year is 2.6%, but the adjusted index for the district is 3.3%, which would equate to a maximum millage increase of 2.71 mills or $934,950 in additional revenue. The value of one mill within the district is $345,000 for the 2020-21 school year.

If the board adopts the resolution, it cannot exceed a 2.71-mill increase. If Greater Latrobe officials feel they cannot operate within those parameters, they will need to adopt a preliminary budget by Jan. 29. The board must adopt a proposed final budget in May and a final budget by June 30.

Because it is so early in the budget process, Watson said he isn’t certain where the district will end up as it relates to a possible tax increase. As school officials get closer to the Jan. 9 deadline, he said there should be a better handle on expected cost increases and incoming revenues.

What helps matters, Watson said, is that Greater Latrobe has been “pretty successful over the past several years” in managing its finances. He added that “60 to 70% of our expenditures are staff-related” and “we know what our staff structure tentatively looks like.”

“We’ve received some additional revenue streams and we’ve seen some increases in some existing revenue streams that maybe some other districts didn’t experience,” Watson added. “And we have been able to control our staffing, just because our overall enrollment has somewhat declined over those years.”

Watson also noted that the district has been able to allocate and set aside money for planned capital projects.

Last year, the school board voted to adopt a $57,085,874 budget that included a shortfall of $340,000, requiring a 1-mill tax increase. The tax hike impacted the average taxpayer by about $25 a year. The cost-of-living index last year was 2.3% or 2.36 mills, which meant the district could have increased taxes a maximum of $802,400.

Two years ago, the final operating budget of $56,066,709 included a shortfall of $170,000 or a half-mill increase, impacting the average taxpayer by $13. The cost-of-living index that year was at 3.1% or 2.5 mills, which meant the district could have increased taxes a maximum of $850,000.

Three years ago, Greater Latrobe approved a $55.4-million spending plan that had a 1.75-mill tax increase. The board could have increased taxes a maximum of 2.53 mills that year or about $854,000.

Four years ago, Greater Latrobe didn’t raise taxes and five years ago, the district passed a $53.4-million spending plan that included a tax increase of one mill.

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