Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg. (Photo by Rachel Cassandra)

Petersburg’s school district is asking the Borough to contribute additional funding to this year’s budget. The schools have been scraping by with state funding that has remained essentially flat for six years. The Borough’s contribution to the school district has also remained flat for two decades aside from a small increase last year.

District Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter and Finance Director Karen Morrison presented the school district’s budget pressures to the borough assembly on Monday, April 2nd.

“Our funding levels for this fiscal year are the same as they were in fiscal ‘14,” says Morrison. “But our costs for running the school district have greatly increased, especially with utilities and heating fuel.”

Kludt-Painter and Morrison say they have run the budget very conservatively. And Morrison says the administration has only a bare-bones staff.

“Administrative, we’re pretty lean,” says Morrison. “Welcome to the HR department. Welcome to the grants management department. Curriculum. I mean, we’re about as lean as you can get.”

The district expects to get almost half-a-million dollars ($477,000) less in state funding next fiscal year because of reduced enrollment. They say that’s similar to many school districts. And they will have one additional cost due to new legislation requirements—a salary for an additional reading specialist.

Morrison says ultimately the school district’s budget can be balanced by either more funding or cuts.

“Some of the solutions could be the increase of local contribution of 3 million in the borough,” says Morrison, “additional state funds, or reduced programs. That’s kind of where we are at with our current situation.”

Some of that $3 million could come from increases in state funding. The state House on Monday, April 3rd, approved a one-time increase to the Base Student Allocation of $860. If the bill passes, that would equal about $6,600 of state funding per average student.

Morrison and Kludt-Painter said the Borough contributions could also be in-kind—such as reducing maintenance or utility bills for the school district.

Right now, Petersburg does not contribute the maximum funds to its school district—called “the cap.” That is a state-designated amount that encourages local matching to state funds. Kludt-Painter says Petersburg is on the low end of matching state contributions to schools.

“The rest of the districts around us are either funded close to or at the cap,” says Kludt-Painter, “or they have other in-kind kinds of things that they do. Craig buys the wood chips for their boiler system that they have down there.”

Right now, the Borough contributes around $2 million to the school district per year. They can contribute up to $1.2 million more yearly to reach the current cap. If state funding increases, the local contribution cap will also increase.