State budget impasse will not close Dallas School District

By Eileen Godin - | March 14th, 2016 11:19 pm

By Eileen Godin

DALLAS TWP. — Dallas School District is not in danger of closing due to the lack of state funding, district Business Manager Grant Palfey said Monday.

At least not yet.

Palfey assured a standing room only audience that the district is working to be proactive in addressing the expectation state legislators will not be able to pass a 2016-17 state budget which will push school districts statewide into the red.

“I received a lot of text about the possibility of other area school districts closing,” he said. “We are not in that camp.”

Dallas School District will finish the 2015-16 school year, Palfey said.

But the district’s $38.3 million proposed 2016-17 budget is being re-examined to find any way of cutting back expenses to alleviate a $1.1 million deficit.

“Refinancing loans and ‘pay to play’ are some of the ideas being tossed around,” Palfey said. “We are also reaching out to all of (the Dallas School District’s) third party providers to renegotiate contracts,” Palfey said.

James Gattuso, a school board member and chairperson of the school board’s Finance Committee, noted the board’s four subcommittees — Budget and Finance, Personnel, Student Activities, Building and Grounds — have been meeting weekly — sometimes twice a week — to find ways to cut back the district’s budget for the 2016-17 school year.

High pension costs and lack of incoming workers combined with increasing healthcare costs is painting a grim future outlook, Palfey said.

“The future doesn’t look good,” Palfey said. “I know how much it hurts today. I am used to looking down the road five years. I am finding it hard to find the light.”

School Board Member Catherine Wega asked the audience to contact their legislators before April 4, which is State Advocacy Day in Harrisburg.

“(School Board Member Jeff) Thomas and I are going down to talk to them. You need to call them, email them,” she said.

The next Dallas School Board meeting is slated for 7 p.m. April 11, in the Dallas School District Administrative building.

Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews