PURCHASE LINE: Budget work continues
June 17, 2014 10:50 AM
by JEREMY HARTLEY

PURCHASE LINE — The Purchase Line Board of Directors will move forward on approving the proposed 2014-15 budget during next week’s regular meeting, according to discussion at Monday’s work session meeting at the high school.

Budgeted amounts have changed slightly since the last meeting, according to business manager Janice Pearce. Revenues are $17,600,117, up from last month’s expectation of $17,593,644. Expenses are $18,325,703, down from last month’s amount of $18,572,893.

A fund balance of $725,586 will be used to balance the budget, down from last month’s amount of $979,249.

Millage rate changes have remained the same, with a 0.78 mill increase to Indiana County residents and a 2.64 mill decrease to Clearfield County residents. This represents a zero tax increase when taking into consideration the rebalancing of the 2013-14 tax levy according to the State Tax Equalization Board rates, according to the budget resolution.

“The revenues may change,” Superintendent Joseph Bradley warned. “We’re not getting a lot of positive statements on the governor’s plan for his new grant.” This could affect expenses as well, he added.

One topic raised for discussion was the maximum number of students a single teacher should be allowed to handle. The discussion was sparked by the retirement of sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Yanoski.

Elementary Principal Thomas Grierson verified that the board is not proposing to fill Yanoski’s position, a move he did not recommend.

Board member Sandra Fyock mentioned that only three teachers are maintained at the second-grade level. She cited her concern that grades kindergarten through second are the “foundation years for reading skills.” While there is no policy setting a specific number of students to a single teacher, what is the highest number of students one teacher can handle?

According to Bradley, the highest number of second-grade students being taught by a single teacher for the 2014-15 school year is 25 — the same as the highest number of students last year. While Bradley conceded that there is research that suggests an optimum teacher-to-student ratio, he has never found research recommending a consistent cutoff line for number of students and the numbers vary from article to article.

Grierson cited that the kindergarten classes show reading levels of 90 percent or above. By first grade, the levels have dropped to 50 to 57 percent over the last three years.

“I just feel that the kindergarten, first- and second-grade levels, those foundational reading levels, are of primary importance to making sure that a student has a successful academic career,” he said. “If you don’t have students reading on grade level by third grade, it’s triage for the rest of their academic career.

“I wanted to be clear that I feel we need to have, with our population, more teachers in (second) grade. If it can’t happen, we will soldier on and we will make it work. But it’s something that would benefit us greatly.”

Board member Scott Gearhart questioned an unfilled position for a second assistant marching band director. According to the board, the position has been budgeted, but never filled.

According to board member William Pearce, historically, the position of second assistant was filled, but was vacated toward the end of the season and never filled for the final few games. People have applied for the position but later backed out.

“I’m glad you brought it up,” Pearce said. “I think it becomes a safety issue if you have that many kids with just two people (watching them).”

According to high school Principal James Pearce, there are 80 to 90 band members.

“I would like an opportunity to at least speak to the band director on their usage of that position and how they plan to use that extra set of hands before I would ask the board to make a recommendation,” Bradley said.

The board welcomed John Zahorchak, who will be voted in as new business manager next week to replace the outgoing Janice Pearce.

Zahorchak has worked for the Johnstown School District for six years and as business manager for the last two. For the four years prior, he worked as a coordinator for administrative services, working primarily on revenue, internal auditing and accounting.

“I’m looking forward to being here,” he said. “The biggest reason is because of the financial control system that’s in place now that Janice has created. For me, it’s just a matter of maintaining that. There’s a good track record here, and that’s what makes me excited to come here.”

The board will vote to approve a new athletic director during next week’s regular meeting. According to Bradley, four applicants have been chosen and will begin the interview process this week.

The board will also vote to approve a replacement for the seat vacated by former board member Joshua Hopkins. Bradley said one member of the community has expressed interest in the seat, and the board expects to meet with the individual this week.

Grierson announced that Purchase Line will be the recipient of the Project Fit America grant that will see new exercise equipment installed in the district.

The project purchases outdoor gym equipment such as parallel bars, pull-up bars and rope-climbing stations, according to Grierson. The board has already approved about $3,000 to prep an area outside the elementary school and install the equipment. Project Fit America will be providing the equipment itself, which is estimated to be worth almost $16,000.

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