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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

School district budgets funds

Charlie Kephart
Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science is one of the few clubs funded by this budget. (Courtesy of Dave Borst)

With over $100 million in the General Fund Budget for the 2023-2024 school year, the district created a plan for spending this money as evenly and as fairly as they could across all departments and schools. 

This school year’s budget was under direction of Director of Business Susan Franks. Franks started working for the district in 2017 and has been in the business department for seven years.

Franks was in charge of dividing the money between schools and departments. This took place over the summer.

“Each department has to give their budget plan to the principal and then the principals from each school bring it to us,” Franks said. “I have meetings with the superintendent and the representatives from each building. The superintendent will approve it or adjust it, then I assemble it and basically put it all together in the budget process.”

The district creates an unassigned fund balance which acts as a savings account.

“Our unassigned fund balance sits at about $25 million. We have that portioned out, and it will go to things such as teacher retirement or budget shortfalls,” Franks said. 

Funding for the district comes from three levels. There is a local level, a state level and a federal level. 

“26 percent of our budget comes from local revenue and real estate taxes,” Franks said. “60 percent of the budget comes from the state, in basic education funding from the governor. And the federal government provides 14 percent, which includes pandemic money from COVID-19.” 

Superintendent Brad Hatch played a large role in the budgeting process for the school year.

“Annually, we have to look at our funding sources, projected revenue and projected expenditure. We want to match our revenue and our expenditure,” Hatch said. “Everything that goes into running the school district from the upkeep to the staff and their benefits.”

Hatch believes budgeting in a “fiscally frugal” way is what helps the district succeed. 

“You have to address your needs and wants and then prioritize the needs,” Hatch said. “We always have needs such as uniforms, books, computers, internet access and adequate materials. Wants are things such as extra field trip money and extra transportation money. Our goal is always to make our dollar last longer.” 

Athletic director Phil Riccio takes part in the budget planning as well. 

“Athletics budget is pretty unique in the sense that most of our money that is spent is all fixed. Having officials is a fixed cost, busing and transportation is a fixed cost,” Riccio said. “On the flip side, we also have the opportunity to bring in revenue, mostly through our home football games and admission tickets.” 

Within the schools, there are different representatives that cover each department. Science teacher Jessica Hogan covers the budget for the science department. This money funds the biology, physics, and chemistry classes, as well as the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science club. 

“I try to divide the money evenly between the three sub-departments,” Hogan said. “I split it between biology, chemistry and physics teachers. This money also goes to Junior Academy of Science, but we were informed that starting next year, they will have to raise their own funds.” 

This month, representatives will come together to discuss and plan the 2024-2025 school year.

“The budget is always in flux. We could always use more staff and personnel for next year. It’s a juggling game when it comes to the budget,” Hatch said. 

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About the Contributor
Charlie Kephart
Charlie Kephart, Associate Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Charlie, I'm a junior and Associate Editor of the Mountain Echo. I was on the Livewire staff in Jr High and Mt Echo staff since 10th grade. I have had a passion for writing since 4th grade and even promised my 4th grade ELA teacher that I would publish a book some day. My main goals in life are to go into the medical field at Pitt. Whenever I am not at school, I enjoy watching Netflix, reading and hanging out with my boyfriend. I'm super excited to write stories to keep you guys updated on everything going on here at our school!

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