Grove City School Board Monday adopted a 2019-20 budget that calls for keeping property taxes unchanged. 

The $42,339,685 spending plan passed, 6 to 2, with Carolyn Oppenheimer and J. Scott Somora voting against the measure.

Roberta Hensel, Heather Baker, President Dr. Constance Nichols, Vice President Patty Wilson, Dr. Michael O’Donovan, and Ray Abplanalp voted in favor. Dr. Armando Sciullo was absent.

A separate measure, which set taxes at 63.98 mills, passed unanimously.

During the budget discussion, Oppenheimer asked how many teachers worked at George Junior Republic during 2017-18. Oppenheimer said she wanted to compare those numbers to staffing in the coming school year.

George Junior is part of Grove City Area School District. Located in Pine Township, the facility provides private residential treatment for court adjudicated, dependent, and delinquent at-risk boys.

In 2019-20, George Junior will have about 55 teachers, a reduction of about 4.56 staff positions, said Grove City Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch. Oppenheimer said she had been wondering if the school had appropriate staffing levels, considering declining enrollment at the school.

The number of teachers and support staff members have been reduced through attrition, Finch said, adding that George Junior has taken on extra students following the spring closure of Glen Mills Schools, a similar facility in Delaware County.

Executive sessions

The board held executive sessions May 13 to discuss contract negotiations and after the June 3 meeting.

Board members discussed amending Finch’s contract at the June 3 session, with the possibility of reducing the amount of the superintendent’s salary increase. The board also discussed buying property near the middle school.

Nichols announced that an executive session was held May 13 before the meeting to discuss contract negotiations.

An executive session was to be held after Monday’s meeting to discuss the school safety and security report, , Nichols said.

• The board heard from students Libby Kent and Riley Criss, who just completed eighth grade. They recently won a regional Inventionland competition, which celebrates student innovation. The board presented the girls and their teachers, Ben English and Karen Garland with certificates of appreciation.

• During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, resident Esther Falcetta accused the board of violating the state’s Right-To-Know law, popularly known as the Sunshine Law, because she said the board doesn’t provide adequate descriptions of its executive sessions.

Falcetta said discussion about a potential sale of the Highland property should have been disclosed to the public. 

• Board members voted, 5 to 3, in favor of the furniture bids for Hillview Intermediate Center, which is being expanded and renovated. Somora, Oppenheimer and Abplanalp voted against the measure after a lengthy discussion about whether rocking chairs were a necessary purchase.

The chairs will cost just over $300 each; the district is ordering 51 – one for each classroom, said Trisha Monaco, an interior designer with Eckles Architecture and Engineering in New Castle, and Mark Scheller, a principal with the company.

The budget for furniture, fixtures and equipment was estimated at $904,781. The bids came in at just over half of that, Monaco said.

She said many pieces of existing furniture will be reused. New items will include desks, tables and chairs for students, teachers and administrators, guest chairs in office spaces, cafeteria tables, shelves, cabinets, area rugs for classrooms, and the rocking chairs.

Abplanalp and Oppenheimer questioned a need for the the rocking chairs. Many elementary classrooms have them, Nichols said, with Hensel noting that some teachers supply their own.

Somora said he wishes board members would have had a chance to see the bid list before Monday, and Oppenheimer suggested leaving the rocking chairs off of the list for now.

• Board members voted, 5 to 2, in favor of waiving a $410 facilities fee for Grove City College to use the school gym for a girls’ basketball tournament this weekend. Oppenheimer and Somora voted against the request, and Abplanalp abstained.

The district’s gym is needed for overflow. The college often lets the district use its facilities for free, Finch said.