Indiana, PA - Indiana County

APOLLO-RIDGE: School directors discuss tax issue

by JULIE E. MARTIN jmartin@indianagazette.net on November 26, 2013 10:50 AM

School board members Monday committed to not raising taxes for the 2014-15 school year by more than 3.1 percent, though whether an increase will even happen in the spring is still up in the air.

The resolution passed with all school directors approving the maximum increase rate set for the district by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Regarding the question of a tax increase, school board President Gregory Primm said “we’re not there yet.”

After the meeting, he said the figure was approved because officials already know they won’t need to increase taxes by more than the rate set.

If the district did need to do so, he said, the increase would be included on a referendum on the ballot in the spring elections.

School districts are required to submit preliminary budgets to the Department of Education in May and final budgets in June.

Last year, Apollo-Ridge did not increase taxes.

Officials said they expect the district budget — currently about $21.6 million — to increase, attributing that to rises in a number of salaries and benefit costs.

The property tax rate for Indiana County residents in Apollo-Ridge School District is currently 161.4 mills.

Armstrong County residents currently pay a rate of 60.8 mills.

District officials also:

• Approved creation of three lead custodian positions and gave the individuals poised to fill those roles raises.

The move will put one lead custodian in each of the district’s three school buildings: the high school, the middle school and the elementary school.

District officials agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the custodians’ local union. They are represented by the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ.

The roles are not so much supervisory as designed to serve as liaisons between the custodial crews and the district’s director of buildings and grounds, Superintendent Matthew Curci said after the meeting.

According to the agreement, district administration is permitted to designate the lead custodians to communicate with and coordinate custodial staff to complete work as directed by the building and grounds director.

“It allows us to name individuals to serve as lead custodians within the building,” Curci said. “It was something we thought could be beneficial.”

The promotions come with a 50-cent raise for the hours custodians work in the lead position. According to Curci, the new responsibilities will be added “as soon as possible.”

Per the agreement with the union, the district is allowed to eliminate lead custodian positions at its discretion.

Two of the individuals who will take the new positions currently make hourly rates of $16.23; one makes $12.65, according to Jennie Ivory, business administrator.

• Hired, pending receipt of proper clearances, eight instructional and noninstructional substitutes.

Among substitute hires were two clerical/aide/ lunch monitor positions, which went to Karlee Townsend and Malinda Rocco; a clerical aide role, to be filled by Karen Mc-Kendree; and an aide/lunch monitor/food service position, which Denielle Baustert will take. All four are from Apollo.

Clerical, instructional aide and lunch monitor substitutes are paid $8 an hour.

• Also hired as instructional substitutes Lacy Wolcott, of Pittsburgh, as an art instructor; Helen Losovoy, of Vandergrift, who will serve as an elementary instructor; Brielle Leinweber, of Kittanning, as family and consumer science substitute; and Robert Mattu, of Leechburg, who will substitute for both physical education and mid-level math.

The substitute teachers will make $85 per day.

• Approved the hire of Tabitha Bowers, of Rossiter, as long-term elementary substitute at $134.20 per day. Bowers will work approximately from mid-December to mid-April.

• Voted to hire Carrie Culp, of Apollo, as four-hour food service employee at $8.28 an hour, effective Nov. 26.

• Approved the addition of Roger Gourley, of North Apollo, and Ted Faber, of Creekside, as volunteer basketball coaches, pending clearances.

• Received a report on the Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation from board member Sharon Jaworskyj. The foundation had received a $1,250 Education Improvement Tax Credit donation from food service provider Nutrition Inc., she said.

• Voted in favor of renewing its anti-bullying policy with no changes. The policy was revised Aug. 27, 2012.

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