The Huntingdon Area School Board held its monthly workshop meeting Monday and the primary discussion focused around issues of savings in light of voting on its finalized budget at the board meeting next week.

“We’ve made some reductions to the budget from last month, about $222,000,” said Faith Swanson, business manager and board treasurer.

The current budget factors in the modified governor’s budget for 2019-20, but does not account for the proposed increase to the minimum teacher’s salary.

“We did not include money to increase the minimum teacher’s salary because they don’t think it’ll go through,” Swanson said. “If we make no changes between now and next Monday’s (board meeting), and the governor’s budget goes through without the minimum salary, we are looking at about a $762,000 deficit for next year. … This (budget) does include a tax increase (of 1.2904 mills).”

Swanson said that if the tax increase is not included, the deficit for next year will be somewhere around $1 million.

“The tax increase would net approximately $239,000,” she said. “We’d be back up toward a million dollar (deficit) without it.”

Superintendent Fred Foster said they have been considering other cuts for how to save money. One potential savings is the proposal to purchase new band uniforms.

“We’ll be doing a bid process, going to work through what fundraising we can do to see how we can best (purchase the uniforms),” Swanson said. “We didn’t want to just jump in and say, ‘here’s 40-some thousand dollars for new uniforms.’”

Swanson also explained the district received a $185,000 school safety grant that will be put toward social workers, which will help to cover some of the funding they are not getting for next year.

“Congratulations to everyone who worked on that grant,” said board member Cindy Dell.

The board also discussed savings that could be had in the sports section of the budget.

“In one of our athletic committee meetings, a comment (athletic director Dean Grenfell) made talked about the amount of games sports play (per season),” board member Tammy Peterson said. She said Grenfell had talked about many of the sports teams playing the maximum number of games allowable per season, while they could provide some savings if they chose to decrease the number of games by a few.

Foster explained many of the sports have a minimum games per season of around 18 and a maximum of around 24.

“If you choose the minimum (number of games) per each sport, you would save transportation costs (if an away game) and (paying) umpires and referees if it’s a home game,” said Foster.

“We need to save money wherever we can,” said Dell. She added, “I don’t know we need to go to the minimum number of games, but somewhere in between (minimum and maximum).”

“Before we make a decision we need to know what that looks like,” said Danyle Shea, board president. “If we are talking about (decreasing by) four wrestling matches or basketball games, what would that mean? Because basketball and wrestling are our two biggest incomes as far as tickets.”

Foster said he would bring more information for further consideration to the board meeting Monday, May 20.

“I think we also need to look at playing more sports on our own fields so we are not paying money to use someone else’s field,” Dell said. She explained she was mostly focused on bringing soccer back.

“We want to get more games on them held, but you have to talk about the fact that if we bring them back, we’d have to talk about turfing the field,” Foster said.

Andy Socie, the building and grounds supervisor, explained that wear and tear on a field is an additional cost that would have to be considered if sports were brought back home.

“You can reach a point on a turf field or a grass field that it becomes unplayable,” Socie said. He said initial installation of artificial turf would cost around a million dollars, but that heavy usage of artificial turf may decrease the life expectancy from 20 years down to 10 years. At that point, he said, every 10 years the field will have to be resurfaced, which will cost around $400,000 per time.

“Your either have to spread your wear out (by using it less) or set up a bank account to pay for that,” Socie said.

Foster and Swanson said other savings are also being considered over time.

“For personnel (savings), we have two English (teacher) retirees,” Foster said. “One will be replaced, the other was recommended to not be (replaced).”

Swanson said they will continue to work on the budget and see if any other savings can be found, even over the summer and into the next school year.

The school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, in the high school library.

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.

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