Manheim Township high school

When: Manheim Township school board meeting, Dec. 17, via Zoom.

What happened: Donna Robbins, chief operating officer, gave a PowerPoint presentation on planning for the 2021-22 budget. The maximum tax increase is not to exceed 3%, based on the Act 1 index. The budget deficit, now at $3.9 million, is anticipated to be closer to $6 million due to a rise in health insurance costs, an increase in cybercharter enrollments and additional COVID-19 expenditures, as well as decreases in local revenue. The district anticipates using its fund balance to help offset the deficit.

To date: COVID-19 revenue is $1.5 million and total anticipated expenditures are $1.7 million.

Quotable: “When the budget passed last spring, only $465,295 was budgeted for COVID-related expenditures and revenues,” Robbins said. “Hopefully we’ll receive more revenue to pay for COVID-related expenditures, but for now we will need to pay it from the fund balance.”

Background: Local revenue makes up 78% of the 2020-21 budget, with health insurance projected to be over budget by about $980,000 due to high claims and more use. Expenditures for cybercharter schools are anticipated to be over budget by $866,000 due to increased enrollment. The Virtual Academy is anticipated to be over budget by $350,000.

Looking ahead: In May, the board will vote on the proposed final budget, with a vote on the final budget in June.

Diversity: Superintendent Robin Felty said she is working on developing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion teams at each of the nine schools in the district. According to the school’s website, the program’s purpose is “to create a more welcoming environment for people of less-privileged identities.”

Enrollment: Robbins said enrollment stands at 5,867 students. A district spokesperson said that’s down from 5,982 before the pandemic, due  to students switching to cyber charter schools, among other factors. According to a chart in the budget, the number of cybercharter students has increased steadily from 63 in 2017-18 to 130 this school year.

Middle School construction: Jay Darkey, of JPD Architects, said the project is on schedule to open on the first day of school, Aug. 24. He gave a presentation showing significant progress from last December to this December. He proposed some ideas to  build excitement among the students, including tours of the building in February and April or May; preparing a time capsule, which would include a mask; a competition to name the courtyard; and designing a T-shirt for all students to wear on the first day of school. Site work on the campus will continue in 2022, with a new parking area completed in March; landscaping, in May; a bus loop and water gardens, in August.

Act 80 request: The board approved a request to the state to allow the district to fall below the minimum 180 student-day requirement as long as the yearly minimum required instructional hours are met. Valid Act 80 day exceptions include Aug. 18-19, Oct. 8 and Nov. 22-23.

School calendar: The board approved the 2021-22 school calendar, with graduation on June 6 and the last day of school on June 7.

What's next: The board will meet for a work session on Jan. 14.

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