Enquirer Herald

York to add high school French, Latin classes in new budget

The York school district plans to hire a French teacher and add one section of high school Latin classes under a $40.3 million budget approved Tuesday by the York school board.

Finance director Amy Hagner, who presented the budget during a public hearing before the board’s unanimous vote, said the 2015-16 budget is about $1.7 million more than the current year.

However, she said, much of the increase in the annual spending plan will go toward salaries and benefits, which account for 86.5 percent of the district’s costs. The new budget year begins July 1.

The board did not set the tax rate as part of the budget vote. Hagner said the board has traditionally set the tax rate in August, and plans to vote on that at its Aug. 11 meeting.

Hagner said property values across the district are changing because York County is in the middle of property tax reassessments. Hagner said she is working with county officials to determine what the new tax rate will need to be to cover expenses.

No one spoke during the public hearing, and the board approved the budget with little discussion.

Board member Chris Revels thanked the staff for holding salary and benefit costs to 86 percent of the total. Hagner said that in some previous years, those costs have made up more than 90 percent of the budget.

The added costs include $420,000 for step salary increases of about 2 percent for eligible employees, $270,000 for higher insurance and retirement benefit costs, and $300,000 for higher operating costs for utilities, custodial supplies and technology.

Hagner said the district will continue to outsource substitute teachers with Kelly Services, at a cost of $350,000.

The board budgeted $88,000, including benefits, for a new French teaching position and to add one section of Latin each semester, taught by a current employee at York Comprehensive High School.

She said the district lost about $296,000 in revenue from state lottery funding and other grants. She also said they expect the district’s per-student revenue from the state, referred to as base student cost, to rise to $2,220 this year, up from $2,120 last year.

Superintendent Vernon Prosser said the high school needed to offer more foreign language elective classes and surveyed students on their preferences. French was a top choice, he said, although another interest suggested by students was Mandarin.

He said the high school lost a German teacher a year ago and was unable to quickly find a replacement, so that position was replaced with a Spanish teacher. For the past year, Spanish was the only foreign language offered at YCHS.

“Looking at the needs of our students, we just felt like after we did some study that when we were putting another language in, French would be it because that was what our students wanted,” he said.

The spending plan also calls for an increase in the salary of retired employees, who have for several years had their salaries reduced by 15 percent. The budget calls for increasing those salaries from a 15 percent discount to a 12 percent discount.

“That has kind of been a goal of ours for the last two or three years, but we’ve just not been able to accomplish it,” Prosser said of the retiree salary increase. “At least we’re heading in the right direction.”

Hagner said school districts statewide were allowed to reduce the salaries of retired employees who were re-employed several years ago, during the economic crisis. She said this would be a step toward bringing those salaries back to their previous levels.

Prosser said the district’s annual increases in salaries, benefits and retirement costs, plus utility increases, is a significant expense, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for extras.

“To take what you have and just move it forward, not adding anything and doing anything differently, is about a million dollars, just to move it forward,” he said.

The loss of about $296,000 in revenue from state lottery funding and other grants was another factor, he said. “There are other things we would have liked to have done.”

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077