The Mars Area School District is staring down a projected $1.3 million deficit is in its general fund budget for the current school year.
District Business Manager Jill Swaney says the primary reason for the deficit is an increased number of students who enrolled in cyber-charter school.
“Under the PA School Code, when a student enrolls in a charter school that is recognized by the state, their home district has to pay tuition to those charter schools,” Swaney said. “And it’s based on a tuition rate that is calculated based on that school district’s cost to operate.”
Swaney says it’s a little over $10,000 per student in the Mars Area School District. But, she says more students enrolled in cyber school this year because of the pandemic, which resulted in the district paying more money to the charter schools.
“Whenever schools were starting up, Mars had approximately 200 students leave and enroll in a charter school, a majority of which were cyber-charter schools,” Swaney said. “So consequently, we had budgeted an amount for it, and we didn’t account for those students. The net effect, where we are today, based on the enrollment, is a $1.3 million deficit.”
Swaney also said that the district’s operating costs don’t change despite the fact that the school loses students to the cyber schools.
Currently the district is looking at transferring the money from their fund balance.
But, as they budget for next school year, in order to account for the cyber school enrollment the district is looking at a tax increase, furloughing teachers, or taking from the fund budget again.