BLAIRSVILLE-SALTSBURG: Preliminary school budget shows no tax increase
May 16, 2013 10:59 AM
by JEREMY HARTLEY

SALTSBURG — The Blairsville-Saltsburg school board approved a preliminary budget showing no tax increase during its regular meeting Wednesday at Saltsburg Middle/High School.

The proposed budget includes revenues and expenditures of $30,468,561, said Eric Kocsis, business manager. Both represent a $280,426 increase from last year’s budget — a 0.92 percent increase in revenues and a 0.93 percent increase in expenditures.

There are no plans to borrow from the fund balance.

“No services were cut, everything’s the same,” Kocsis said.

Ninety-four percent of expenditures are salaries and benefits, vocational technology and special education, transportation, facility operations, debt service, contingency and tuition costs, Kocsis said. The largest increases are salaries at $579,255 and retirement at $653,335.

There will be no tax increase for the fifth year in a row. Millage rates remain 126.34 mills for Indiana County and 109.86 mills for Westmoreland County.

The new Act 1 gaming law took some of the burden off property taxes by providing approximately $1.1 million to the district, according to Kocsis.

“I think there were a lot of hard decisions made over the last three or four years,” Kocsis said. “It’s good to see the positive news, and still provide all the services to educate the kids well without having to raise the taxes.”

Board President B. Edward Smith was pleased with the budget.

“I’d like to congratulate the finance committee who worked on this, and (Eric Kocsis), for another wonderful year,” Smith said. “I think we’re all in a bind. Every school district is in a bind for money and programs and funding. I’d like to thank our administration, our teachers, our employees and everybody who make this thing work. It’s great.”

The proposed budget will be available for public review in the business office during regular business hours until a final vote on June 19.

Also on Wednesday, board Vice President Geoge Rowley announced that the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit 28 board met Tuesday and will be searching for a new executive director following director Robert Coad Jr.’s announcement that he would be retiring in December after 16 years. According to Rowley, ARIN will be conducting its own search for a new executive director. Outsourcing the task would have cost the board approximately $10,000.

“ARIN board feels they can do the same thing for $5,000,” Rowley said.

The hope is that ARIN will be able to provide that service to all the school districts in the area at a reduced cost.

During public comments, Burrell Township resident Ryan Maher shared his disapproval of the board’s lack of action following April’s decision not to pursue an in-house security officer.

“You cannot imagine my surprise, disappointment and outrage when I read the media reports about and read the minutes of that meeting,” Maher said.

During the April meeting, board members decided that hiring an officer through either the state police department, local police department, local sheriff’s department or a retired police officer would not be feasible. Maher said he believes that because that plan fell through, the board decided to ignore the problem rather than continue to examine other options.

“(You) simply gave up and are putting my children and every other child in this district at a greater risk of being a victim of violence than they need to be,” he said.

“Yes, we had to take it off the table, but that doesn’t mean it’s done,” said board member Rick Harper. “There are options.”

Blairsville-Saltsburg is also on a waiting list with local and state police for a risk assessment.

The board also approved the appointment of Mary Whitfield as district treasurer, commencing July 1 through June 30, 2014. The board also approved the appointment of Leigh Free as board secretary for a four-year term beginning July 1 through June 30, 2017, at an increase of $300 annually.

The board approved entering into an agreement with the Indiana Area School District for the creation and operation of an interscholastic girl’s lacrosse program for students in grades nine through 12. Blairsville-Saltsburg has no lacrosse program, and the agreement would be at no cost to the district.

A blood drive will be held Wednesday, according to student representative Steven Richards. Prom is scheduled for May 31.

The board approved the list of graduating seniors for graduation to be held June 6.

In other business, the board:

• Approved to purchase services of a data liaison/literacy coach from ARIN IU 28 for a total of 160 work days scheduled between July 1 and June 30, 2014, at a cost of $85,680 to be paid through Keystones to Opportunity grant funds.

• Approved the resignation due to retirement of Cheryl Bevard, learning support teacher at BHS, effective Wednesday.

• Approved supplemental contracted personnel for the 2013-14 school year as follows: Mark DeMarines, BHS varsity boys’ basketball head coach; Lisa Fodor, BMHS junior high cheerleaders coach; Janelle Reed, SMHS girls’ basketball head coach; Michelle Simpson, SMHS girls’ basketball assistant coach; and Sharon Highberger, SMHS social studies department chair.

• Approved as volunteer coaches: Glenn Sheffler, BHS junior high volleyball coach; and Tracy Richards, SMHS cheerleading coach.

• Approved Mary McCunn, Brenda Paouncic, Cheri Sprankle, Sandy Mazzoni and Amy Mazzoni as custodian/maintenance summer help for 2013.

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