The financial administrator putting together a five-year financial plan for Erie's Public Schools expects to submit that plan by the end of the month.

Charles Zogby and district Superintendent Brian Polito both say that a tax increase for city property owners is inevitable.  Right now the anticipated tax increase is at 2.5%, or about $34.00 for a property valued at $100,000.

Polito believes that can be lowered to around 2%, in each year of the plan, which is typical for the district.  "Ten percent, yes over five years," Polito said, "average 1.9% a year, which again is consistent with our ten year history."  He went on to say, "Tax increases are inevitable for the district, nobody likes them, certainly we don’t think it’s the best vehicle to raise revenue but it’s the only one we have." 

The financial administrator said he has been focused on finding options that will keep the tax hike down.  

Those options include eliminating mandated boiler engineers from buildings that no longer have steam boilers, and outsourcing the work of about 62 janitors across district.  He expects that to produce a savings of about a million dollars.

The district is also adding more PILOT, or payment in lieu of tax agreements with non-profit housing properties, such as the one they have with HANDS.  The district learned that federally funded non-profit housing organizations can get federal tax reimbursements and transition those payments into the budget.

But according to Zogby, stopping the flow of public school students to charter school and stabilizing enrollment, will be most important to the financial health of Erie's Public Schools in the long run. 

He says an average of about 60 students a year leave the district for charter schools, most based on academics.  "To the extent that the district is able to make investments in its education program, improve the quality and the safety in its school buildings, that’s going to at least give parents a reason to rethink those choices, maybe keep their kids in the district schools and also work to relieve some of the budget pressure that’s coming from the outflow of students to charters," Zogby said.  

Zogby expects to submit his plan to Pedro Rivera, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education by the end of January.  The secretary will have 45 days to review the plan and decide whether to approve it.  After that it will be formally presented to the Erie School Board for implementation.