By Sam Bigham
Property owners in Carnegie, Crafton and Rosslyn Farms should be happy to learn school taxes will again remain at 26.7432 mills.
Keith Bielby, director of finance and fiscal affairs for the Carlynton School District, presented the budget proposal that he and the finance committee developed for the 2023-24 school year on June 20. The budget, which directors approved, does not raise taxes for the second year in a row.
The budget totals $33.956 million for revenue and expenditure. This is slightly smaller than the past year’s budget which had an estimated total revenue of $35.36 million and an estimated total expenditure of $34.47 million. Revenue and expenditure were both slightly higher in the past year than expected. Bielby attributed this to higher-than-expected revenue from taxes, investment and government stimulus. Building projects and other expenses cost slightly more than expected, but the school district still had a surplus of just over $890,000.
Most of Carlynton’s revenue comes from local taxes, making up 61.58% of the revenue. Subsidies from the state government make up 30.48% of the revenue. Subsidies from the federal government make up 5.65%. The other 2.29% of the revenue comes from investments and other sources.
Almost all of the budget is going “directly to the kids,” Bielby said.
Direct instruction makes up 62.6% and support services makeup 31.2% of the expenditures.
Bielby also drew attention to some important trends. The cost of medical insurance for district employees has increased by around 8% over the past several years. For the new budget, it has instead increased by 14% with the cost of the employee pension fund also increasing due to state guidelines.
The school district is running out of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding Program which will decrease the amount of reserve funding the district will have. Between March 2020 and March 2021, the federal government allocated $189.5 billion to the ESSER Program. These funds were made available to “address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students,” according to the Office of Education under the Department of Education. No new funding has been allocated to the program.
The district has allocated $7.80 million to stay in the district’s reserves, representing almost 24% of the budget. Bielby projected this number to decline to $3.17 million by the 2028-29 school year. This will represent only around 8% of the budget which is comparable to the 2018-19 school year where reserves represented 9% of the budget.
Bielby also projected expenditures to increase to $40 million by the 2028-29 school year.
Bielby suggested that raising taxes is an option, saying “it’s not feasible” to have a blanket commitment to never raise taxes.
Though it was difficult, Biebly was proud of the budget he created, saying, “I’m glad that we are able to give you a budget where we don’t raise taxes.”
Capitol Hill Challenge
Directors recognized two Carlynton students who teamed up with the guidance of teacher Ryan Gevaudan for the 2023 Capitol Hill Challenge, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation. Junior Caden Heiser and sophomore Tyler Seaton achieved third place among thousands of students and traveled to Washington, D.C. on June 14 to be recognized and meet financial experts.
The Capitol Hill Challenge is part of the Stock Market Game, which is a simulation game designed to teach students about finances and investment under their teacher’s guidance. The game is meant to be used by elementary, middle and high school students under their teacher’s supervision. The game gives students $100,000 in virtual money that they can invest in real stocks. The students’ investments have no impact on the real world, but changes in the stock market impact what happens to the students’ investments.
The Stock Market Game’s website claims that the simulation tool is used by 600,000 students.
The Capitol Hill Challenge adds to the game by pitting schools across the nation in competition with one another. Since 2004, the Challenge has had close to 160,000 students participate.
Up to two public middle or high schools per congressional district may participate.
Preference is given to schools servicing lower-income students or students of color.
This year’s program took place from Jan. 30 to May 5.
Gevaudan applauded the team’s discipline during the challenge, saying they carefully planned out when they would sell and how long they would sit on their investments.
The challenge paired well with Gevaudan’s classes as he teaches courses on business, accounting and finance. Tyler Seaton, who attended the board meeting, explained that he initially took classes in finance because Gevaudan teaches them, but thinks other students should take them as well to learn about finances and investment.
Seaton, Heiser and Gevaudan ate breakfast at Morgan Stanley and took a tour of the Capitol building and all of the monuments while in D.C.
The students were supposed to meet U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio D-Penn Hills, but he was busy voting on the floor of Congress. The tour of the Capitol was instead given by staff members of Deluzio and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. D-Scranton.
Gevaudan described the program and trip to D.C. as “The greatest educational experience Tyler and Caden will ever have in their life.”
The board members applauded Seaton and Heiser’s achievement. Superintendent John Kreider presented an award to Seaton, describing their ranking as a “high honor” for Carlynton.
The board members informally decided to explore the idea of making a personal finance class a requirement for students.
The school’s bullying policy was updated to include “acts that occur outside the school setting that are within the jurisdiction of the district.”
The school’s policy toward students experiencing homelessness was updated to also include students in foster care or who are also experiencing educational instability. The superintendent may waive certain graduation requirements for these students, such as credit requirements, deadlines, fees or dress codes.
A motion to hire a psychologist for the elementary schools for the upcoming school year was approved.
The dual enrollment agreement between Carlynton and Robert Morris University was renewed. This agreement allows students to enroll in a chemistry class at Carlynton while receiving transferable college credits at a discounted rate.
Bible in school
Crafton Republican committee member, Marlene Chioda asked if anyone on the board would make a motion to have the Christian Bible put in the district’s school libraries. The question brought audible sighs from some board members as Chioda has asked for this to be done at multiple board meetings in the past.
George Honchar did make a motion to have the Christian Bible put in the school libraries saying there’s “nothing wrong” with having them in. No one seconded the motion, so it did not pass.