There’s myth circulating that closing the schools for the rest of the year means substantial cost savings for districts like East Penn. If only this was true! The reality is that virtually all school district costs are fixed, either by the nature of the costs, by legal contracts, or by state mandate.
The East Penn School District’s greatest asset is its people, and this is reflected in the fact that salaries and wages make up about 70% of district costs. Many of these people continue to work hard providing distance education, maintaining school buildings, supporting special education students, etc. In addition, Harrisburg’s Act 13, passed earlier this month, requires the district to continue paying all of its employees their regular salary or wages whether they are working or not. So there is no savings at all in the largest part of the budget.
The remaining 30% of the budget is mostly made up of fixed costs too. With ten large buildings to maintain across the district and a significant technology/internet ‘backbone’ that is being actively used, infrastructure expenses continue whether school is in session or not. There are some minor savings to electrical bills, classroom supplies, and so forth. The district did renegotiate its contract with the bus company, saving taxpayers approximately $1 million in anticipated transportation costs this spring. But the overall savings has otherwise been small. Bob Saul, East Penn’s Treasurer, estimates total net savings at about $411,000– or 0.2% of budgeted expenses.
So no, there is not much money that might be given back to taxpayers. Or used to weather this storm in the coming months. I wish the news were better.