On June 6, 2016 the School Board adopted the District’s General Fund Budget for 2016-2017. Below is a link to the Final Budget.
- Total Operating Budget: $211,112,000
- % Tax Increase: 0%
- Real Estate Tax Millage: 27.182 mills
School Budget FAQ
Q: What are the key drivers
of the budget?
A: Fixed costs, including
salaries, benefits and debt service continue to be key drivers of the budget,
accounting for about 75% of expenditures. Salaries and benefits are determined
through a collective bargaining agreement between the District and its
employees. Debt service refers to the District’s outstanding obligations on
bonds used to finance school construction projects.
Q: How has the budget been
impacted by the rising costs of mandates like pensions and special education?
A: Mandates have had
a dramatic impact on the budget. Shortfalls in state funding of PSERS (state
pension program) have forced local school districts to make up the difference
using local tax revenues. Districts are required to contribute at a rate more
than 16% higher than last year -- well beyond the established inflationary
index. Additionally, the cost of providing appropriate special education
services continues to increase while state support remains virtually unchanged.
Since 2005, the District's special education budget has increased from about
$15M to nearly $30M. At the same time, state contributions for special
education are only a portion of that, and have only increased from $4.6M to
$5.2M. A growing list of additional unfunded/underfunded mandates include state
standardized testing, school health programs and training, transportation
services, PA Core compliance, staff development and Act 82.
Q: How much funding does the
District receive from the state?
A: In 2016-2017 DASD expects
to receive about $46M from the state.
About $13M of this is reimbursement of PSERS contributions. The amount received from state sources accounts
for about 22% of the District’s total 2016-2017 budget, leaving 78% of the
funding for the District’s budget to fall mostly on local taxpayers.
Q: What are the District’s
primary revenue sources?
A: Most school
districts in PA must rely on property taxes as their primary source of revenue.
In Downingtown, all property tax revenue accounts for 68% of total revenue
sources. As discussed above, state
revenue sources account for 22% of total revenue. The remaining sources of revenue include
earned income tax, other local sources, and federal grant funding.
Q: What is a fund balance
and why is it important for the District to maintain?
A: Fund balance is a
measure of net financial assets, which is similar but not identical to equity
or accumulated savings. The fund balance is equal to financial assets less
A common misconception is that fund balance is a cash account, and therefore
corresponds to the district's bank balance. As stated above, fund balance
represents the fund's total assets minus its liabilities (what a fund has minus
what it owes). Cash is an asset, but it usually is not a fund's only asset. The
fund may also have liabilities, such as an accounts payable amount due a supplier
that could result in a decrease in fund cash when they are paid.
A district with an appropriate fund balance can:
- avoid excessive short term borrowing thereby avoiding associated interest
- accumulate sufficient assets to make designated purchases or cover unforeseen
- demonstrate financial stability and therefore preserve or enhance its bond
rating, thereby lowering debt issuance costs.
The most commonly asked question regarding fund balance is how large should it
be? Perhaps the best answer would be: "an amount sufficient that short
term borrowing for cash flow could be avoided and would also allow the district
to set aside sufficient assets to realize its longer range goals."*
* Governmental Accounting Standards Board (gasb.org)
Q: What is the District's
current fund balance and what is it being used for?
A: The District
maintains an unassigned general fund balance of 8% of budgeted expenditures
which is about $16.9M of the 2016-2017 budget. The 8% is an amount that is
allowed by law. In addition the District
has assigned fund balances for future PSERS increases and Health care claims of
about $7.6M. The District maintains
about $25M in a capital reserve fund for rating agency purposes that allows us
to maintain a Aaa bond rating (the highest rating available) which
significantly lowers the District’s cost of capital. The District has also established a Debt
Service fund with about $33.9M which will be used to pay a portion of existing
debt service over the next seven years. The
District also maintains a Capital Projects fund of about $77 million that is
used to fund facilities construction, renovation, and improvements; and is also
used to fund capital equipment purchases including technology equipment and
devices. $8M to $10M of these types of
capital expenditures is projected to be charged to this fund each year going
Q: Why would a District not
spend all of the funds it has budgeted in a given year?
A: Throughout the
year, the District makes every effort to reduce expenditures and realize cost
savings. The District does not spend
budgeted funds if needs change and spending is not necessary. Remaining funds become part of a “fund
balance,” reflecting efforts taken by the District to manage its finances in a
responsible manner, with an eye on future needs. This fund balance helps to
fund the types of future expenditures discussed above.
Q: What is the breakdown of
how the budget is spent?
A: Approximately 47%
of the budget is spent on regular instructional programs and 18% is spent on
special education and other instructional programs. 16% is spent on instructional and
administrative support services. 7% goes
towards facilities maintenance, 5% towards student transportation, and 5% for
debt service. 2% is spent on
extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. The total salaries and benefits
included in each of these areas accounts for 70% of the budget.
Q: How does the Downingtown’s
0% tax increase compare to other districts in Chester County?
A: 2016-2017 Property Tax increases
Q: What variables must a
district consider when preparing its budget? What resources are used to make
informed decisions on projected costs?
A: Each year school
districts prepare budgets that are an estimation of expenses for the following
school year. In Pennsylvania, budgets are prepared almost a year in advance of
implementation and must take into account numerous variables like enrollment
changes, staffing needs, state budgets (which often aren't determined until late
in the budget cycle), the local real estate market and transfer tax revenues,
special education costs, facilities planning and emergency needs (winter
weather, repairs, etc.), among other factors. Using data and guidance obtained
from numerous sources, including its financial advisor, insurance broker,
health insurance advisor, energy consultant, various local and state purchasing
consortiums and internal staff, the District makes a best estimate as to its
Q: What are some of the distinctive programs and services the District
experience is defined by the extensive opportunities we provide our students
and the extraordinary level of service we share with our families and
community. The District’s budget is able to
support one of the strongest academic programs in the region and state. Among the distinctive programs and services
that DASD offers are:
· Advanced Placement
· Career Pathways Program
at STEM Academy
· Elementary world
language program (Rosetta Stone)
· One-to-one computing at
6th grade center, middle schools, STEM Academy and soon to be
implemented in DHS East and DHS West high schools.
· Enhanced summer
enrichment programs in partnership with the Downingtown Community Education
· Camp Success, elementary
summer enrichment program for grades k-2
· Extensive elementary
music and arts instruction and performance programs
· Extensive field trips to
support curriculum at all levels
· After-school programs at
· Extensive array of clubs
· Drama program at all
· Community service
· Travel experiences
· Speaker programs
· Internship program
· Television studios in
We are committed to providing high-quality special education services and proud
of our reputation for doing so. Families move into the District specifically to
receive these services. The learning environment is considered to be highly
inclusive for students with special needs.
Level of Service
· Enhanced academic
support services at all buildings (literacy and math specialists)
· Enhanced holistic
support services at all buildings (counselors, psychologists, etc.)
· Extensive health service
programs (wellness council)
· Healthy youth
development program in partnership with “Communities That Cares”
Events of Significance
Magazine’s Top High Schools in the US
News and World Reports Best High Schools Rankings
Washington Post America’s Most Challenging Schools
Magazine Top High Schools in Pennsylvania
Line Today Top High Schools in Pennsylvania
Business Trimes Top High Schools in Pennsylvania
Baccalaureate World School
School of Distinction
Administrators Magazine District of Distinction
rating of 10 out of 10
Best School Districts in PA