Possible school cuts prompt ire

June 05, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Area School District Superintendent Edwin Sponseller last week was asked to come with a Top 10 list of possible budget cuts for next year, but for different reasons the list he came up with pleased neither him nor several board members.

Sponseller told the board he wants "a fully funded budget" that does not use $368,000 from the capital reserve fund and $421,000 from the district's fund balance to close a projected $789,000 deficit between revenues and expenditures.

The administration recommended a 2.96-mill increase to balance the $65.5 million spending plan. The board, however, voted May 28 to approve a tentative budget that raises taxes 1.42 mills, or a 2.5 percent increase in real estate taxes.


To avoid dipping so much into reserves, Director Craig Musser asked for the list of cuts and the administration produced 10 items equaling $789,000.

Topping it was $344,729 for technology and personnel to support the academy of reading program at the elementary level. Closing Letterkenny Elementary would save another $122,047 and not filling two secondary teaching vacancies would save about $96,000, according to the list.

"To me it's a slap in my face that I'd even consider that," Director Harold W. Fosnot Jr. said of putting the technology cuts on the list. Most of the items on the list were for programs the board would not consider cutting, he said.

Fosnot criticized the administration for not recommending cuts in programs that are not mandated by the state, including music, art and athletics.

"I don't know why it's on the list because it's not going to happen," Fosnot said of closing Letterkenny.

Musser said the district could close Letterkenny by next year, but the board needs to think about cutting nonmandated programs in the future, regardless of the unpopularity of reining in the growth of arts and athletic programs.

"Otherwise, the only thing I'm going to be able to tell taxpayers for the next four years is 'Get out your wallets, because there's nothing we can cut,'" Musser said.

The administration wants to maintain a fund balance equal to 5 percent of the operating budget and continue to build the capital reserve fund for future replacement and renovation of elementary schools and relieving secondary school overcrowding, Sponseller said.

The board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. June 18. Final passage is set for June 30, the day before the new budget year begins.

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