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PENNS MANOR: School budget plan lays out 'worst-case scenario'

by on February 21, 2014 10:50 AM

KENWOOD — The Penns Manor Area school board has adopted a preliminary budget listing $16 million of expenses for 2014-15, and calling for a possible real estate tax boost of almost 13 percent.

The school board on Wednesday ratified the spending plan, including recommendations to increase the real estate tax by 3.33 mills, the amount allowed under the economic index set for the area by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and additional amounts for a total of 13.5 mills.

Under the Act 1 school tax and budget law, the district is required to lay out its spending plan this early because it will ask permission for additional increases in the property tax without holding a referendum for voter approval. Under exceptions allowed in Act 1, Penns Manor will ask for taxing power to recover excess costs of special education (4.05 mills); for a higher contribution to the pension fund (3.65 mills); and for costs of refinancing debt (2.88 mills). In all, the school district could be empowered to raise the tax by 13.91 mills.

As proposed and approved Wednesday, the increase of 13.5 mills would cost the average property owner $131 more per year.

The district has until May to fine-tune the budget, by reducing costs and the necessary tax increase. And after a 30-day public review period, the school board can yet again make changes when it adopts the final budget. The deadline is June 30.

Because of the likelihood for the budget to change by then, the plan now on the table is called the “worst-case scenario,” according to Business Manager David Kudlawiec.

The board approved the preliminary budget 8-1 with directors Robert Packer, Ronald Beilchick, Jill Eckenrode, John Hardesty, John Sutila, Robert Oakes, Susan Wheatley and Richard Polenik in favor. Joette Dudeck voted no, saying she had not attended an earlier workshop on the budget.

In other business, the board:

• Unanimously approved an agreement with Columbia Gas, calling for the utility company to construct a 1.6-mile distribution line from a major transmission line along Route 403, providing natural gas to the school campus in Kenwood.

Changing to gas would enable the district to save an estimated $125,000 a year from the cost of heating oil now used in the school furnaces, Kudlawiec said.

The district would see the savings in about five years, after paying the $573,390 cost of constructing the pipeline. But the savings could begin earlier if owners of other properties along the path of the pipeline agree to become customers and share in the cost of the extension, according to Kudlawiec.

• Granted retroactive pay in the amount of $331.50 to the estate of Robert Grumbling, the district’s superintendent of maintenance, facilities and grounds before his death Oct. 13.

• Approved replacement of copiers in the elementary and high schools under revised service agreements with Canon at a rate of $1,740.38 a month under a statewide blanket contract.

• Hired Lisa Jablunovsky and Glenda Burba as health care assistants at a rate of $12.75 an hour beginning Monday, Feb. 24, and at $13.15 an hour following a 30-day probationary period.

• Hired Benjamin Murphy and Christine Ferguson as long-term special-education substitutes at $85 a day for 20 days, and $135 a day afterward.

• Hired Ashley Jones as a girls’ varsity softball assistant coach at a salary of $2,663.32; Lauren Ruddock-Smith as a girls’ junior high volleyball assistant coach at a salary of $2,130.66; and Michael Young as a girls’ track and field assistant coach at a salary of $2,663.32.

• Approved Cody Trabert and Lauren Ashurst as volunteer boys’ baseball coaches and Adelle Dolney and Ashley Mattis as volunteer junior high volleyball coaches.

• Accepted the resignation of Daniel Barnes as assistant boys’ track coach and permitted the administration to post and advertise the position.

• Approved 12 requests for faculty attendance at workshops and conferences and a request for a student field trip by assistant band director Fred Montanaro with the marching band to Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla., from April 14 through 17 at a cost to the district of $300.

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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