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Business manager for Chambersburg schools leaving

August 06, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Chambersburg Area School District Business Manager Rick Vensel has been crunching some really big numbers during nearly eight years on the job -- budgets that now exceed $100 million a year and $74 million for the ongoing high school expansion among them.

On Tuesday, he was poring over $2 million in construction bills, but the 48-year-old Carlisle, Pa., man will soon be working closer to home, having been hired Monday by the South Middleton School District.

"I took the job, first of all, for a great opportunity," said Vensel, the business manager since 2001. The cost of gasoline was not an issue, but the time spent commuting 42 miles each way was, he said.

"That was a very large incentive, to gain eight hours of my week back," said Vensel, the father of three and a "gentleman pumpkin farmer."

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"My family said I was crazy if I didn't take a job two miles from home," said Vensel, whose resignation is effective Oct. 15. His new job will pay $110,000, down from $121,500 with Chambersburg, he said.

"We're going to conduct a national search for a business manager with construction experience," Superintendent Joseph Padasak said last week. Finding someone with experience comparable to Vensel's will not be easy, he said.

"One of his strengths is his ability to manage construction ... His skills have been very valuable to us," School Board Vice President Renee Sharpe said. Vensel is also adept at communicating complex financial issues and managing budgets, particularly after the state moved the budget calendar up several months to accommodate the Act 1 property tax law.

"I am very thankful to Chambersburg. It's a great community," Vensel said. The school board and administration were essential to managing the district's complex affairs, Vensel said, naming Padasak and Human Resources Director Bill Hodge, former superintendent Edwin Sponseller and Hodge's predecessor, Lynn Lerew.

Vensel came to Chambersburg from the Cumberland Valley School District, where he helped oversee 10 construction projects costing in excess of $150 million, he said.

In addition to the high school project, Vensel also was involved in the construction of the new Scotland, Fayetteville and Benjamin Chambers elementary schools, an addition to Hamilton Heights Elementary and major upgrades to seven schools.

Also in the works is a plan Chambersburg has pushed for a $15 million modernization and expansion of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center and a $21 million academic wing at the center for Chambersburg students, Vensel said.

Vensel is working on financing to convert Chambersburg Area Middle School and Faust Junior High School to middle schools for grades six through eight. Each school will cost $15 million to $20 million, he said.

Restructuring the district's health-care coverage in a period of rapidly rising costs also was a major challenge, he said.

"The most challenging thing to happen was implementation of Act 1," Vensel said. Only a handful of the state's 501 school districts implemented the act, which had to be approved by referendum.

"Bureaucratically, it was a nightmare, but it worked out well," he said. The law shifted some of the local tax burden from real estate to earned income tax, with additional state funding from gaming revenues.

"Rick was the go-to guy on Act 1" for many districts across the state, Padasak said.

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