Mars counting on growth in budget

$52M spending plan approved

June 19, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP — An “on-paper deficit” in the Mars School District's 2019-2020 budget will be made up by an increase in local tax revenue, officials said.

The Mars School Board unanimously passed the $52.2 million budget during its meeting June 11. It accounts for increases in security via a district police force as well as additions to staff.

Dayle Ferguson, board president, said the new positions include support personnel, including a psychologist and social worker/counselor, as well as special education and elementary school teachers. They account for an increase of seven total positions.

The budget also includes the purchase of a new math curriculum.

“This budget sustains all of our existing academic programs as well as features notable investments to address class size, update curriculum resources and materials in the area of mathematics, continues to grow special education and student support services and enhances the district's safety and security profile,” Ferguson said.

As passed, the budget contains a $1.5 million deficit to begin the year. In presenting the budget earlier this year, Jill Swaney, the district's business manager, said starting with such a deficit is not uncommon, with the difference made up over the course of the year via property taxes associated with growth in the district. Local revenue accounts for 72 percent of the overall budget, officials said.

Ferguson said that continued growth serves as “an organic tax increase,” allowing the district to maintain the same tax rate as the previous year. She noted the district has passed a budget featuring no such increase for 11 of the past 12 years.

“Our budget may look a bit lopsided on paper, as it shows expenditures greater than known revenue,” she said. “However, we know through decades of watching our community grow and knowing the multiple metrics to watch that there is a very high probability that the on-paper deficit will likely disappear as the new local revenue flows to fill the gap.”

The district's fund balance is available to make up the difference if the revenue does not pan out as expected, Ferguson said.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.