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Homer-Center directors OK preliminary spending plan

by on May 19, 2017 10:58 AM

CENTER TOWNSHIP — Homer-Center school directors and administrators have been working three or four months on a perplexing budget for 2017-18, and the school board still has more than four weeks to get all the numbers down.

That’s why school officials made clear Thursday that the proposed budget approved last evening could undergo dramatic changes before the end of June.

Right now, the budget lists $17 million of expenses including replacements for six retiring teachers. It calls for a 1 percent real estate tax increase that would cost the average homeowner $16.39 extra next year.

It also requires taking more than $600,000 from the district’s fund balance,

Any of the figures can change, and many probably will, district officials said.

The board passed the budget on a 4 to 3 vote, with Vicki Smith, Gerald Bertig, Fred Hayes and Julie Rado in favor. Justin Smyers, Michael Bertig and Logan Dellafiora were opposed.

Board members James McLoughlin and Dan Fabin were absent.

The tentative budget calls for raising the real estate tax from 16.5091 mills to 16.6742 mills, and holding other taxes at past rates: earned income, 0.9 percent; real estate transfer, 0.5 percent; and local services, $5 a person.

The tentative budget will be posted for public review and comment until a scheduled vote on final adoption on June 22.

The budget deadline is June 30.

In other business, the board:

• Tabled consideration of the purchase of $103,000 worth of textbooks and related materials in a new reading curriculum from Benchmark Education Company of New Rochelle, N.Y., but later renewed consideration and approved the purchase.

Director Logan Dellafiora first objected to a surcharge of $8,240 for shipping and handling.

He opened a discussion that at times included school board members offering to personally drive to New Rochelle and pick up the materials to save the delivery cost.

The directors agreed to Benchmark’s total bill of $111,240 in their final vote.

• Approved the 2017-18 budget for Indiana County Technology Center in the amount of $6.3 million. The district will contribute $369,609 — an increase of 10.42 percent over this year — as its share of ICTC operations. The board approved it on a vote of 6 to 1, with Michael Bertig opposed.

• Approved a list of cafeteria meal prices for 2017-18 representing a 10-cent increase over the current year. The new prices: Breakfast, $1.25; elementary lunch, $2.40; and high school lunch, $2.65.

• Approved a proposal to offer the ABCs & Me summer kindergarten program for eight days, after lengthy discussion of several possible options.

• Accepted with regret the resignation of elementary school Patricia Iezzi, who will retire June 30 with 28.5 years of service to the district.

• Ratified a list of 54 seniors as candidates for graduation on Friday, June 2, upon successful completion of district requirements.

• Honored three award-winning students: fifth-grader Landon Hill, winner of the elementary Wildcat Recognition Award; 11th-grader Abby Novak, the high school Wildcat Award winner; and Alyssa Smyers, named the Senior of the Month by the Kiwanis Club.

• Reappointed James McLoughlin as treasurer and Michael Bertig as assistant treasurer for 2017-18. McLoughlin agreed to forgo the $900 stipend for the duty.

• Approved three student field trip requests, including a trip by Christine Yurky and two students to the National Affairs Conference from June 30 to July 7 in Black Mountain, N.C., at a cost to the district of $1,070.

• Reappointed Rhonda Clifford as the school board secretary with salary adjustments offered each year based on satisfactory performance and the average of salary increases provided to confidential secretaries.

• Approved a proposal from Westchester/Ace American Insurance Company to provide privacy and network liability insurance at a premium of $4,269 for the 2017-18 school year.

• Approved a contract with Citizens’ Ambulance Service at a base fee of $1,650 plus $100 an hour for games that exceed three hours.

• Approved a proposal for sports accident, voluntary student accident and catastrophic accident insurance coverage by United States Fire Insurance Company at a premium of $7,730 for 2017-18.

• Approved an agreement with ARIN Intermediate Unit No. 28 for driver education instruction for the 2017-18 school year.

• Approved the Homer-Center Academy of Choice Cyber School under an agreement with Seneca Valley School District, of Harmony, at a base fee of $16,800 for five regular education student seats and a rate of $840 per each additional student per quarter.

• Approved an agreement with Bayada Home Health Care Inc. at a rate of $44 an hour for nursing services in the 2017-18 school year.

• Approved a schedule of school board meetings for the second half of the year, including planning meetings on Aug. 3, Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7 and regular business meetings on Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec. 14. The schedule also includes monthly meetings of the academic and buildings and grounds committees, and the annual reorganization meeting on Dec. 7.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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