AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 5, 2013

Board: No new taxes

Reduction in expenses thanked

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — School directors in Slippery Rock will not be raising taxes this year.

Members approved the $28,428,595 budget at 89.15 mills at Monday's voting meeting. Directors could have opted for a tax hike of 2.05 mills under the state's Act 1 Index, but decided not to take it.

"It's been a pretty good budget season for us," said Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay. "We benefited from some reductions in expenses."

Paul Cessar, business manager and board secretary, said after the meeting the decrease in expenses included 17 retirements; seven of those positions will not be filled by the district in the coming school year. The district has had 26 employees retire in the past two years.

Most of the retirements are of teachers. The district will save in the coming budget by not paying about $60,000 in salary and benefits per new teacher that would have been hired if the seven positions weren't cut, Cessar added.

Officials plan to close Har-Mer Elementary School in Harrisville, with a projected savings of about $850,000 in operation costs for one year.

Staff will be shifted to the district's other elementary schools, including Slippery Rock Area Elementary in the borough and Moraine Elementary in Prospect.

School director Kenneth Speer - head of the Har-Mer committee - again voiced his concern about class sizes in the coming school year in light of approving the budget with no tax increase.

"If we see a need for teachers, are we locked out?" Speer said. "We're trying to set a budget now and we don't know class sizes."

The district's fund balance of $6 million has a contingency of $200,000, Cessar said.

"The budget is based on estimates from last year's budget. We have earned income and revenue still coming in from last year," he said.

The state legislature determines what subsidies it gives Pennsylvania schools based on the governor's budget recommendations, which could pass June 30.

Every year, "The state says it'll pass the budget on time and it's 11:59 p.m. on June 29. It doesn't help us," Cessar said, a complaint heard yearly by school districts in the state.

Nogay assured Speer that if more teachers are needed to keep class sizes down in the coming school year "we'll find (the money) if we need it," she said.

Cessar stated after the meeting that two big expenses next school year included laying a new roof on Moraine Elementary, which is currently under way. That job is costing the district about $700,000.

Over $620,000 was approved earlier this month to have vestibules at Moraine, Area Elementary and the middle school more secure.

HHSDR Architects/Engineers, Sharon, did a study of the district's buildings in March of 2012, so the board decided to start security upgrades at the schools' entrances after the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people.

Security installed at the entrances will include card readers, electronic latches at the access doors/main entrances and video cameras with phones connected to the front office.

The high school's entrance will not be given the electronic security improvements for the time being, since it is not close to its main office.

On Monday, school directors instead approved an additional security guard at the high school, which already has one guard.

Board president, the Rev. Michael Scheer, stated they needed to vote on the additional security guard because Cessar needed to negotiate another contract with Pond Security for the position.

"It's about $20,000 for someone there 7:30 (a.m.) to 2:30 (p.m.)," Cessar said. Directors would vote on the new security guard contract next month, he noted.

"I'm in favor of a security guard," said director Mark Taylor, who chairs the operations committee.

"That high school is so open. We have to have something," Speer added. In the meantime, members ponder how to reconfigure the vestibule at the high school.

The new security guard would assist the current one in escorting people to school office. "We have to modify the visitor policy," Taylor added.

"If we want to change (the security contract) during the school year, we can look at it," Cessar said.

Published June 26, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.