CASD OKs bond sale, hiring freeze

December 06, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The uncertainties of the economy were among the items discussed during Wednesday's Chambersburg School Board meeting - at which a bond sale was approved, a hiring freeze was implemented and next year's budget was discussed.

The board approved the sale of $10 million in bonds, some of the money needed to complete the $74 million expansion and renovation of Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

Last month, Greg McLanahan of Public Financial Management Inc. advised the board not to go forward with a $46 million bond issue because of market volatility. He recommended the board instead break up the sale of the bonds, beginning with a $10 million issue.

The sale went forward Wednesday with three bids received. McLanahan told the board he expected interest rates of about 5.6 percent. The low bid was 5.1 percent, he said.


Over the next 20 years, the lower interest rate will mean a savings to the district of $1,120,000 in interest, McLanahan said.

Also discussed was a hiring freeze.

"Barring very extenuating circumstances, we are not adding any new positions for the remainder of the year," Board President Stanley Helman said. "We do realize because of some of the state and legal mandates ... we may be forced to add a position."

The freeze does not apply to filling some existing vacancies, Helman said.

The district has about 1,400 employees, 1,200 of them full time, including about 600 teachers, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. One area of personnel growth has been personal care assistants for special needs students, he said.

"We've added 25 or 30 personal aides in the last year and a half, and they all take insurance ... It's $15,000 for insurance," Padasak said.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services Janilyn Elias said the district has more than 100 aides. One savings, she said, could be for aides to work with more than one student when practical.

As for the 2009-10 school budget, it does not have to be approved until June, but under Pennsylvania's school property tax reform law, a tentative budget must be approved in January, before the governor has proposed - and the General Assembly has approved - education subsidies to districts.

"As everyone knows, we're in very difficult and somewhat uncertain financial circumstances," Helman said. "There are too many uncertainties in the economy right now for (the tentative budget) to be an accurate reflection of what we pass in June."

"There may need to be some cuts made ... but the education of our students is very important," Helman said.

He said he had not yet seen a draft of the budget.

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