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1.618-mill School Tax Increase Approved

Upper St. Clair School Board upped the figure from the preliminary budget, hoping to hold the line next year.

The Upper St. Clair School district tax increase is larger than expected.

A 1.618-mill increase was approved by the school board Monday. The preliminary 2012-13 budget called for an additional 1.375 mills.

School board member Angela Petersen motioned to amend the figure. The measure was defeated 5-4, but board vice president Barbara Bolas called for another vote. She cast her ballot to in favor the second time around, joining Petersen, board president Rebecca Stern, Amy Billerbeck and Frank Kerber.

Voting against were Buffy Hasco, Harry Kunselman, Louis Mafrice Jr. and Louis Oliverio.

Petersen’s rationale was that implementing a larger increase this year could allow the district to hold the line on taxes for 2013-14.

The 1.618-mill figure represents the maximum increase allowed for the school district under Pennsylvania Act 1 of 2006, the Taxpayer Relief Act.

Read more tomorrow on Upper St. Clair Patch.

Oren Spiegler June 26, 2012 at 02:33 AM
The Upper Saint Clair School Board is a body on which individuals possessing no knowledge of budgeting, finance, or economics, and who have no compassion or consideration for the community's working, middle class families, may serve. A courageous member of the Upper Saint Clair Republican Committee stated in a recent post that this is the price we are paying due to the inability to attract good, prudent individuals to run for these critical positions, and she is quite correct. Why do you harbor such contempt for us, Mesdames Petersen, Bolas, Stern, Billerbeck, and Mr. Kerber? I trust all of you will march in lock-step to re-elect President Obama, another individual who has no understanding of the limits of government and its power to tax and destroy. The fiscal climate and the assault on the taxpayer that has come to fruition in this community is as egregious, if not worse, than the most liberal, Democratic stronghold. Congratulations!
usc resident/mom June 26, 2012 at 10:25 AM
USC School Board is out of control!!! I think that any tax increase should be placed on a resident referendum for a vote. These teachers are not worth the salary they keep expecting and the School Board continues to pay!! Most people think teachers are underpaid....not true in Upper St Clair School District.
Oren Spiegler June 26, 2012 at 10:43 AM
You are correct, friend. Massive tax increases should be put to a vote of the residents who pay the bills. It shall never happen here because it would be in danger of being rejected by residents who have had enough, and because to allow the residents any say in the affairs of the District would diminish the dictatorial authority that the tax raisers have seized for themselves. They do not care about us, not even having the decency and common courtesy to respond to those who dissent, and acting as if there is no dissent. Salaries have been escalated far beyond what would be necessary to secure teachers for plum jobs in this District. I applaud the teachers' union for recently agreeing to concessions which are expected to save millions of dollars, but it is meaningless to the residents. The savings are being used to increase spending, not a dime of relief to be provided to the taxpayer.
Maria Miller June 26, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Thank you USC school board for having the courage to make the tough decisions in favor of the students!
Robert A. Shoaf June 26, 2012 at 02:27 PM
'Hold the line" on taxes for 2013-14? Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiigggggggghhhttttt! Methinks something else will come up between now and then so that Petersen, and those of her ilk can find yet another reason to raise taxes. Do these school board members chant the mantra " tax and spend, tax and spend" before they go to sleep each night?
Robert A. Shoaf June 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM
"Courage" and "tough decisions", neither word or phrase should be used in the same sentence regarding the USC School Board! Please, spare us the unjustified praise.
Judy June 26, 2012 at 02:38 PM
None of those in favor of the additional increase would commit to "holding the line" in 2012-2014.
Judy June 26, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I meant to say 2013-2014. They already plan to dramatically increase taxes after that.
Mark Trombetta June 26, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Stupid and careless........Those are the best terms for this School Board. Expected would be another. For Ms Petersen to state "Pay me now or pay me later" she demostrates more of her notoriously out of touch behavior. STOP SPENDING MONEY THAT WE DON'T HAVE!!! That is the solution. Our Board has gotten itself into a fix with reckless spending and greed. They want everything for everyone, most of all themselves. That is why Ms Bolas and Ms Petersen remain on this board. They believe themselves smarter than everyone else and better suited to run the District than anyone else. Did anyone notice that we fell far behind Mt Lebanon in the latest national rankings. That certainly does not mean that the USC District is of poor quality; it is not. It does reflect the fact that, despite the reckless spending, we are not progressing. This shows a poor relationship between dollars spent and outcomes, since we are one of the most expensive districts in the State. Don't ask them to qualify this, because they have never asked for outcomes to justify the recklessness. Here is one outcome for study. Why do we spend 300,000 doallrs or more for IB when there were only 6 [that is correct SIX] IB candidates this year. If history continues, nearly half will not pass the exam. That is approximately a 75,000 dollar cost per diploma as compared to a 12,000-13,000 dollar cost for the rest of the USC students. Where is the value here?
Amy Billerbeck June 26, 2012 at 06:13 PM
This budget and tax increase highlight the pension fund crisis now impacting all PA school districts. USC’s pension obligation is projected to increase by approx. $7 million (over 400%) from 2009-10 to 2015-16 alone. These costs are controlled entirely at the state level. In response, the district has: - renegotiated the teacher contract (saving $3.7 million over 2 yrs) - renegotiated the bus driver contract (saving $20K) - cut 19 staff positions and suspended one (saving $2 million) - eliminated two administrative positions (saving $100K) - reduced spending on technology, capital and class trips (saving $500K) - approved a sports registration fee (saving $85K) - established an Advancement Office (bringing in $170K in revenue in its 1st yr). I take seriously the responsibility of maintaining our school system in a time of economic uncertainty. Currently, USC and all school districts in PA face unprecedented financial challenges. We urge community members to learn more about the pension crisis in particular, and to contact our state legislators re: pension reform and adequate education funding. A list of FAQs is available on the district web site for more details on the budget issues. I am happy to share more information with anyone who would like to contact me directly. Amy Billerbeck Member, USC School Board abillerbeck@uscsd.k12.pa.us
Harry Funk June 26, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Thank you for providing the supplemental information, Amy.
robert redinger jr June 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Better sharpen your pencils a little more Amy!
Lax Mom June 26, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Is the figure for the funds raised by Advancement net or gross? I know that a person was hired for this position and usually there are costs involved in fundraising. Thanks
bothsidesofthefence June 26, 2012 at 10:40 PM
It is unfortunate that you feel that you are not getting your money's worth. If you could hear what is discussed in the faculty lunchroom and at meetings, you'd find that the vast majority of teachers feel they are very fairly paid and love their jobs. Do not confuse the actions of teachers with the actions of the school board. I guess you could move, if you are that dissatisfied, but know that EVERY school board is eating their constituents alive and at least here in USC, your kids are safe, well-cared for and well on their way to hopefully voting Republican.
Mark Trombetta June 26, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Ms Billerbeck descibes the reactive things that she and her spendthrift colleagues have done to cut expenses now that they face a crisis. None of these issues she lists were proactive. In this 4+ year cycle of economic degradation, the USC directors acted and spent as if they were oblivious to the rest of the world economy. Now they respond by cutting educational programs, teachers , and programs for the students. Ms Billerbeck, there is another 300,000 plus to be saved by cancelling IB! That sacred cow will never be slain by you and your cronies. How long does their 40,000 dollar campaign contribution buy them favored status anyway? If you would not have added synthetic turf fields to middle schools, doubled the size of two schools without an increase of students, and developed a sound fiscal plan, you would not be in this mess. Don't blame the State for balancing its budget. The Governor told you he was going to do it and you did not listen. It is all our money anyway, yet you blame someone else for trying to be fiscally responsible. And don't take credit for the teachers who gave back 3.7 million dollars in their contract through selfless dedication. That is crass self agrandizment which you do not deserve.
JoeTheNuke June 27, 2012 at 02:32 AM
The Problems: Complacent taxpayers, excessive capital expenditures, and uncontrollable unions. The Solutions: 1. Stop taking federal and state funds - eliminating the federal and state strings that are attached. 2. Eliminate unprofitable and underutilized extracurricular activities. 3. Fire some teachers to eliminate their salary burden and the PSERS burden. Why do you think the teachers made concessions in exchange for no-furloughs? Bring Wisconsin-style reforms to USC.
PK3 June 27, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Amy, PSER's didn't just appear it's been around a long time. The USCSB didn't have the vision to see the impact and plan accordingly also, did the USCSB need to spend all that money for the middle school's at the time it did?? Lastly, Thank you for legally taking $352.00 away via the tax increase from my children now i won't have the money to buy them shoes. What should I do? maybe Mrs. Stern will buy the shoes for my kids. Stop blaming PSER's and take accountability.
PK3 June 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Amy, The sports fee money is a tax on a cretian group. Why don't you tax all other activities? What ever name you want to name it's still a tax.
Alum/Resident June 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM
So, the teachers agreed to the changes in their contract and will be going back to their "09-'10 salaries for the next two years. This will save the district $3.7 million during that time period. Why are the administrators not doing the same??? Please list the concessions they are making so that we are assured everyone is contributing their fair share in the best interest of the students.
bothsidesofthefence June 27, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Joe, you seem to want to "nuke" some pretty big areas. Several problems to your solutions. 1. If you do not take federal and state funding, how do you plan to educate kids with IEPs, ESL and other high costing kids? Not allow them in the schools, so we could save money? 2. Your point about underutilized ECAs is a good one, but unprofitable ones? Activities are for the kids, not making money. 3. The teaching and support staff are at bare minimums and many gave up over 25,000. Yet,,we have 4 principals for 2 middle schools and they plan to hire another at the HS when all the furor dies down (it will be another man, I'm sure) I cannot understand how "we saved 100, 000" in admin costs when they are still adding admins. As to Wisconsin-style reforms, I'd love to not have to join the union and pay into the Democratic coffers. But I have no choice.
ClaireUSC June 29, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Bothsidesofthefence--the union is what got you a decent-paying teaching job. Joe "the nuke"--it's funny how the teachers' union voted to give themselves pay CUTS and yet you still try to place the blame on them! As far as I am concerned, the union should NOT have re-negotiated their contract. I just bought a house...maybe I'll call the bank and try to re-negotiate the contract because I can't afford the mortgage....GIVE ME A BREAK!
JustTheFacts July 01, 2012 at 01:44 PM
It is my firm belief that the USC school board members are not being completely transparent with their constituents. According to the PSERS Employer Bulletin from Feb/March 2009, "In addition, based on the changes made at the (PSERS) Board meeting, the estimated FY 2012/2013 employer contribution rate spike is 20.16% (based on the June 30, 2008 actuarial valuation) which is an increase from the most recent estimate of 16.40%. A spreadsheet showing the new 30-year projections of the employer contribution rate is included in this publication. The projected employer contribution rate spike of 20.16% in FY 2012/2013 is currently still below the original rate spike of 27.73% as projected in FY 2003. The downturn in the economy, however, continues to negatively impact the Fund." The entire report can be found by searching "psers expected contribution rates 2009." If you recall, 2009 was the same year the teacher's current contract was being negotiated, and also the year the school board voted to spend ~$60 million to renovate the middle schools. The school board would have you believe the increase in contribution rates was unexpected and beyond their control. While there is some truth to that statement, the reality is that since 2003, Pennsylvania school boards have been warned about the impending increases in employer contributions to PSERS but have chosen to ignore those warnings until it has reached a crisis situation.

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