The Spring Grove school board got a first look at a preliminary budget that includes a $7 million deficit at Wednesday's meeting.

At this point, the $65 million budget features a 7 percent increase in expenditures for next school year. Substantial increases are in salaries and healthcare. The district is also preparing for an increase of 5 percent or more in its retirement contribution.

The district has already decided to seek exceptions to go above its 2.1 percent property tax cap and applied for three exceptions, including special expenses and retirement costs.

The preliminary budget calls for a property tax rate of 21.1139 mills with all exceptions taken. That would mark a 5.1 percent increase from the present tax rate of 20.0831 mills.

Historically, the board approves a preliminary budget with a maximum millage increase and then works to lower that number.

"You can choose a zero percent increase, but you'll put yourself behind the eight ball. Maybe not next year, but down the road. You can never recover from that loss of income," Superintendent Robert Lombardo said of approving a budget with no tax increase.

The board will likely approve a motion to make the preliminary budget available for public review at its Wednesday, Jan. 23, meeting. After that, the preliminary budget will be available for review at the district business office.

Final budget approval is set for May. The board meets the first and third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m.


in the Educational Service Center on College Avenue.