USC School Board OKs Preliminary Budget With Tax Increase
The move will give the board 'maximum amount of flexibility' come June.
The Upper St. Clair School Board passed a preliminary budget Monday night for the 2012-13 school year, which includes a 1.647-mill tax increase and the elimination of nine professional and five support staff positions.
A 1.647-mill tax is equivalent to $329 per $200,000 of assessed value.
The vote was 7-2. School Directors Louis Oliverio and Louis Mafrice voted against passing the budget. They said they aren't comfortable with such a large tax increase.
"I believe a budget is a budget," Oliverio said. "In order for me to vote yes, I need to be comfortable with it."
"I believe that this proposed budget falls short of serving members of the community," Mafrice said.
"I look at it differently," board member Amy Billerbeck said. "There's one purpose and one purpose only—to apply for exceptions.
"I don't look at this as our real budget ... It's not necessarily what I will vote for in May."
Board member Harry Kunselman agreed with Billerbeck.
"It borders on recklessness not to accept the preliminary budget ... We will be in crisis mode later on if we don't give us our flexibility now," Kunselman said. "We have not seen the governor's budget for next year ... not sure how much money they're going to take from public education.
"Tax increases are not palatable to me but I see this as a challenge to the people in Harrisburg."
"I want to maintain maximum local control until we adopt a budget in June," Vice President Barbara Bolas said.
The amount the state will allow the district to raise taxes next year—without any exceptions—is .41 mills. That number has increased since the board last looked at the numbers.
If there were a .41-mill tax increase next year, the budget would still face a $2.6 million shortfall. It would take 30 professional and seven support staff eliminations to balance the budget, Billerbeck pointed out. That is about 10 percent of current staff.
"I don't believe we have a community that would support that (a 10 percent cut in staff)," Billerbeck said.
"We have not made decisions about staff or programs to cut," Dr. O'Toole said. "We are five months ahead of schedule. After tonight, we will be in a new phase of looking at a more realistic approach to the budget."
Administrators will now file the proper tax exception paperwork with the state's Department of Education by the deadline, Wednesday, Jan. 25.
The PTA Council is planning an open microphone meeting for parents and taxpayers to be able to ask questions about the budget with Dr. O'Toole and other administrators at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14 in the Boyce Middle School auditorium.
Dr. O'Toole recognized two retirements on Monday night.
Richard Morris, a school bus driver, will be retiring after 23 years of service to the district.
"He has a remarkable reputation," Dr. O'Toole said.
Mary Ann Tungate, a high school guidance secretary, will be retiring after working in the school district for 17 years.
"She gives 100 percent every day," Dr. O'Toole said.
School Director Recognition Month
January is School Director Recognition Month. Dr. O'Toole thanked the school directors on Monday night for their service and dedication.
If you had to choose, would you increase taxes or cut teachers? Tell us in the comments.