A major challenge school districts face as they work to balance budgets for 2013-14 is unfunded and underfunded mandates. Mandates encompass legislation that transfers financial responsibilities from one government agency to another. In the case of education, the mandates that most effect districts include transportation, special education, charter school tuition and PSERS. Collectively, these mandates are costing Salisbury Township School District taxpayers millions of dollars each year – millions of dollars that are diverted from the process of educating our students. While the current governor and state legislature cut nearly $1 billion from public education the past three years, they promised mandate relief. Unfortunately, financial relief from mandates has not become a reality, resulting in significant financial impact to school district budgets.
What are some of the unfunded and underfunded mandates affecting the 2013-14 Salisbury Township School District budget?
- Transportation – Salisbury Township School District is required to provide transportation to 30 non-public and charter schools. Cost to Salisbury taxpayers for 2013-14: $1,820,199. Total cost to transport non-public and charter school students: $502,425
- Special Education – Federal and state reimbursements are dwindling while special education costs increase. Underfunded impact on the 2013-14 budget: $4,098,000
- Charter school tuition – The Salisbury Township School District is required to pay tuition to charter and cyber charter schools at a minimum of $11,000 per student. Cost to Salisbury Taxpayers for 2013-14: $671,000
- PSERS – School districts are required to absorb significant increases due to underfunding by the state legislature for almost a decade. Impact of the underfunded increase in PSERS for 2013-14: $628,000
All totaled, the impact on the 2013-14 budget for just these four underfunded/unfunded mandates: $7,217,199. This is 22.9% of the 2013-14 budget which is $31,464,569. 22.9% of the district’s budget is dedicated to mandates that are underfunded or not funded at all.
If the state would either properly fund or eliminate just one of the mandates outlined above, either transportation or charter school tuition, there would be no tax increase for 2013-14. Additionally, if Special Education and PSERS were properly funded as promised, there would be even more significant savings. Property tax increases are a result of the governor and state legislature transferring the increasing cost of mandates to districts and the local taxpayer.