INDIANA AREA: Directors address finance items
June 29, 2013 10:30 AM
by CHAUNCEY ROSS

The Indiana Area School District board of directors completed a series of financial moves in tandem with approving the 2013-14 budget at the board’s meeting Monday. Some of the action included details of district construction work to be performed over the summer.

The directors approved the construction fund budget of $16.4 million, which allocates $14.8 million to the ongoing districtwide energy efficiency project and listing $1.4 million in additional projects including safety enhancements and asbestos floor replacements in three elementary schools.

The board also:

• Voted 8-1 to transfer $118,084 from the general fund to the capital reserve account.

Board President Thomas Harley, Vice President Walter Schroth and members Alison Billon, Hilliary Creely, Robert Gongaware, Diana Paccapaniccia, Brian Petersen and Robert Werner were in favor; director David Ferguson was opposed.

• Approved the capital reserve budget of $1.8 million for 2013-14, identifying $988,500 of prioritized projects to be completed in the coming year.

• Approved the calculation of tax reductions for owners of 5,839 qualified homestead and farmstead properties. Real estate tax bills will be reduced by $178.18 through the district’s $1.03 million share of casino gambling tax revenue.

• Unanimously approved a proposal for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association legislative platform, which would empower school districts to negotiate with municipalities for police protection in schools without regard to existing jurisdictional boundaries.

• Heard public comment from three district residents.

John Uccellini, a candidate for school board and retired mathematics teacher, encouraged the board to begin early-bird contract negotiations with Indiana Area Education Association. The teachers’ contract expires in about a year, June 30, 2014, and state law requires the sides to begin bargaining no later than January.

“Be proactive; give yourself breathing room,” Uccellini said.

Matt Baumer, the parent of two students in district schools, asked the board to fill vacant teaching positions and to raise the real estate tax to a higher rate than proposed in order to fund the jobs. “I don’t see how it is not responsible to ask for that,” he said. “It’s simply something that you have to do.”

Danica Jackson, the mother of a student at Eisenhower Elementary School, called “unacceptable” the presence of asbestos floor tiles in Eisenhower and two other elementary schools. Federal environmental regulations have prescribed public notification and abatement procedures since the early 1980s, she said. “Why, three decades later, is this not a priority?” Jackson said. “This risk to our children has not risen to a No. 1 (priority). … I ask that you reconsider, and say that it will be replaced next year.”

District Superintendent Dale Kirsch explained later in the meeting that the asbestos removal had been planned for the summer but is being affected by scheduling conflicts with other planned work.

• Unanimously approved a school bus shuttle to transport gifted fifth-grade mathematics students to accelerated classes that will be offered in only two of the four elementary schools.

• Approved the package of eight insurance policies through the Reschini Agency at a cost of $298,155 for 2013-14, reflecting a slight reduction from current rates.

• Authorized a field trip by 11 senior high French students and one adult to Vanne, France, from Nov. 7 to 27 at a cost to the district of $1,125 for transportation.

• Approved a leave of absence for junior high Spanish teacher Kate Matko from Sept. 12 to Nov. 11.

• Learned from Schroth, the chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, that materials for the roof replacement project have been delivered to the senior high school and three elementary schools. The contractors will use a crane to remove rooftop ventilation equipment and replace the systems when the roof work is done at the senior high, he said.

• Learned from Ferguson, chairman of the outreach committee, that the junior and senior high schools would be impacted by a community initiative to symbolically change the name of North Fifth Street to Jim Nance Boulevard in honor of Nance, a school district graduate, who played in the National Football League. The committee plans to talk about the issue in a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

• Learned from Creely, the board’s liaison to the community-based Challenger Learning Center study committee, that the formal application has been submitted to the Challenger Foundation.

Creely told board members that the possibility of including an Omnimax theater in the Challenger center has been considered as an option and would be paid for with community and corporate support, but “is not part of the bedrock of the application.” She said there is no timeline for approval of the application.

• Formally approved a response and corrective action plan connected to the state auditor general’s audit report for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2009, and June 20, 2010 — although the changes in district procedures had been enacted earlier in response to the same findings in the 2007 and 2008 audits, Kirsch said.

He said the findings were related to reporting procedures enacted but not clarified by Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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