Woodland Hills shares neighbor’s budget woes

Woodland Hills shares neighbor’s budget woes

The Woodland Hills school board passed a final 2019-20 budget with a tax increase and employee furloughs  Property taxes will increase up to the 3 percent maximum permitted without an exception from the state or a referendum. That will take millage to 26.1105 mills, which is 17 percent higher than the 22.4 millage rate put into place following the last reassessment.

Based on the most recent count of full-time employees the district has a headcount of 486.  That is 14 percent lower than a decade earlier.  If the 60 furloughs in the coming year’s budget go through that one-year decline (12 percent) would come close to equaling the percentage change over the 10-year period.

Over the same time period average daily membership fell 9 percent and operating expenses rose 20 percent.  That resulted in the per-pupil cost rising 32 percent to $20,386. That’s greater than the state average.  Five years ago the district closed schools and realigned grades in an attempt to change the district’s direction.

If the tax increase and furloughs sound a lot like what is transpiring in the adjacent Penn Hills School District for this coming school year, they should. Woodland Hills is not in Act 141 financial watch or recovery, however, and it did not undertake new school construction and run up debt like its neighbor (the last school renovations were in 2001).  Is this budget a sign that Woodland Hills might find itself under state financial oversight in the near future?