The North Allegheny School District is looking at a $5.7 million deficit in its preliminary 2013-14 budget.
Under state law, school districts must present a preliminary budget in December, long before such things as state reimbursements and tax revenue are known.
"It's kind of like doing stuff in the dark here," board President Maureen Grosheider said at the Dec. 19 meeting.
District officials had been predicting an $8 million deficit but were able to save money on salaries because of early retirements. Medical insurance rates came in lower than projected and earned income tax came in higher because employers are now required to take that tax out of paychecks, said business manager Mike Hopkins.
The revenues do not take the reassessments into account, he said.
Mr. Hopkins said that, unlike municipalities, school districts cannot take any additional tax revenue from reassessments. And there is nothing they can do to make up money lost by successful assessment appeals, he said.
"If the assessments go up by 29 percent and we reduce our millage by 29 percent and appeals bring it down to 25 percent, we cannot make that up," said board member Dan Hubert. "It's a double whammy."
The state subsidized 46.3 percent of the district's budget in the 1970s, but that has dropped to 32.8 percent in the 2000s, Mr. Hopkins said.
The preliminary budget includes keeping all elementary schools open.
Mr. Hubert said he studied the district's transportation costs for the past year and determined that the district is saving $1,100 per route per year by running its own buses.
"The cost of transportation in-house is a much better deal than going outside the district for transportation," he said.
Parents who are opposed to the proposed closure of Peebles Elementary School have suggested that the district outsource buses instead to save money.
In other action, the board hired Christopher Shute as principal of McKnight Elementary School in McCandless.
Mr. Shute is assistant principal of Bower Hill Elementary School in the Peters Township School District. He will be paid $93,000 a year.
Longtime McKnight Elementary principal Stephen Parks Jr. is retiring in March.
The board also accepted the retirement of R. Craig Slaubaugh, principal of Hosack Elementary School, effective June 28. He has been with the district for 16 years.
The board also adopted the 2013-14 calendar. School will begin Aug. 26 and end June 12. Winter break will be from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3.
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.