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Local News

July 13, 2011

Staff smaller, taxes same in Mercer school budget

MERCER — When the students return to the halls of Mercer schools this fall, they will be making do with a little less.

The budget for Mercer Area School District passed June 20 unanimously at a deficit totaling $226,390. Superintendent Dr. William Gathers said the district will make up the shortfall by tapping the fund balance.

“Everybody understands that the school is trying to do the best that it can, looking at the students first and making it about their best interest. Of course people are disappointed that the state money is cut but they understand,” said Business Manager Michael Stabile.

It is possible that the budget could be reopened, now that the state budget has passed.

Stabile said the school board would have to vote to reopen the budget should state funding be altered.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s original state budget called for a reduction to the tune of $1.2 billion in education. That translated into a reduction in spending for most of the state’s 500 school districts.

On May 16, Mercer school directors chopped yearly expenditures from $17 million to $15.3 million.

Although Mercer hasn’t yet received funds for federal Title programs, those funds were counted upon to help pad the budget where cuts were made in other areas.

Gathers gave much of the credit for staying afloat to the teachers for accepting a pay freeze and to booster clubs who plan to step up to get sports and extra-curricular activities the materials they need that school directors could not pay for.

The 153 total employees from administrators, secretaries, custodians and others were also included in that freeze.

Five teachers and two principals--elementary and high school--took advantage of an early retirement incentive offered by the district.

Teaching positions that were eliminated through retirements are: health and physical fitness, secondary German, elementary, and Title I secondary math. Also eliminated are elementary guidance and high school alternative learning center supervisor. Those retirements and adjustments left seven positions that won’t be filled.

Vacancies that were filled were done internally. Those who were promoted were exempt from the wage freeze and appropriately compensated for their new appointments.

The school district educates students from Mercer and Coolspring, Findley, East Lackawannock, and Jefferson townships.

Property taxes remained at the current rate of 61 mills. A mill brings the district approximately $90,000, and costs property owners $1 for every $1,000 of the property’s 1970 market value.

“It’s positive in the community. Obviously the economy is not great and not raising taxes was very supported,” Stabile said.

No teachers were furloughed in the process due largely to the acceptance of the pay freeze and early retirement incentives.

“We have to just keep our eye on the horizon and the spending and we just hope the economy improves,” Stabile said.

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