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USC School Board OKs Preliminary Budget With Tax Increase

The move will give the board 'maximum amount of flexibility' come June.

The 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 .

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 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 auditorium.

Retirements

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 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.

Becky Brindle January 24, 2012 at 03:08 PM
FYI: Education Voters PA is asking residents to call elected state officials on Wednesday to stress importance of school funding. Details: www.educationvoterspa.org
William Johns January 25, 2012 at 02:37 PM
There are two things I don't agree with... the substantive reduction in state funding to education of nearly $900 million annually, and the imposition of higher taxes on a township already famous for the tax burden placed on its residents. As for the state, I don't recall seeing the same relative funding reductions applied to other areas. Why single out education, our most valuable resource, as the largest contributor to the abysmal financial morass left behind by the Rendell administration. As to the school district/board, I am constantly reminded of how little information is shared with the public or how little creativity is exercised in dealing with the financial position of the district . To reduce the public decisioning to teachers vs. taxes is unconscionable. What other alternatives have been explored or implemented? There is a reason that so many people move away from the township once there children are out of school.
Glenn Robinson January 25, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I attended the meeting on Monday. From the discussion, I got the impression that the preliminary budget that was passed sent a message to the PDE saying if you don't give us these exceptions; the impact to tax payers will be great. I doubt the budgeting process will result in a budget this tough. Also, the board will look to form a committee to examine the communications with the community. I'd like to be in on that.
Becky Brindle January 30, 2012 at 10:06 PM
A "Valentine's Day Rally for Education" is being planned in Harrisburg. Students and parents from across Pennsylvania are going to be "demanding that Governor Corbett make equitable school funding a top priority in the next budget." More info: http://showloveforeducation.eventbrite.com/
PK3 February 11, 2012 at 01:07 PM
remember Rendell incresed the edu budget of upwards of 50% so when corbett rolls back the increased spending it appears drastic. We are not even close to the edu budget before Rendell took office. A typical Dem. tactic.. increase the budget line drastically and when it rolls back people are fooled into thinking OMG we need edu funding. don't be fooled. pk3
bob balmer February 21, 2012 at 06:14 PM
It must be tough when wherever you look you see a liberal boogeyman

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