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Schools chief proposes cuts

January 14, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak announced a number of cost-saving measures at Wednesday's school board meeting, but the president of a citizens group asked administrators to give back more -- their pay increases.

"I'm going to be like a monkey on their back. I'm persistent," Citizens for Responsible Government President Allen Piper said after the meeting.

"Although we must remain vigilant during this global economic downturn, we continue to benefit from the Chambersburg Area School District's long history of prudent financial management," said Padasak, reading from a prepared statement. "Our financial planning is built on a foundation of maintaining academic programs at current levels. All cost-saving measures will be evaluated to ensure minimal impact on students," Padasak read.

Padasak listed the following recent measures:

o A hiring freeze on all new staff positions.

o Elimination of all spending not essential "to immediate classroom needs; all expenditures starting Jan. 7, 2009, require superintendent and business manager approval."

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o A mandatory four-day summer work week from June 15 through Aug. 16.

o "On-demand" supply requisitions to eliminate excess inventory.

o "Site-based" budgeting to give more financial oversight to principals and building directors.

o Eliminating all non-mandatory conference attendance.

o Continuing the energy management program that has resulted in net savings of $250,000 during the previous 15 months.

Padasak did not say how much the measures might cut costs in the $102.8 million budget.

The district has about 1,200 employees, said Director of Information Services Sylvia Rockwood. While no new positions will be added that are not mandated by law, she said it is unclear how many vacancies might go unfilled as they occur.

Piper led criticism of the district for its spending, including more than $30,000 spent to send 19 administrators to a conference at Walt Disney World last summer, a conference administration officials said was paid for with state grant money.

On Wednesday, Piper called for the district's top administrators to return their increases to the district, similar to what he asked of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and other county elected officials. Those county officials all decided to return their net increases to county coffers or to charities of their choosing, he said.

"This is the first I've heard it. It's an interesting concept," Padasak said after the meeting. "Honestly, I haven't given it any thought," said Padasak, whose salary increased from $133,000 in 2007-08 to $140,501 in 2008-09.

"I'm not going to let these people off the hook anymore than I let the county commissioners or the row officers off the hook," Piper said. Contracts with administrators and even teachers, he said, can be reopened.

"It's Mr. Piper's group, now," board member Carl Barton said when asked about Piper's call to return the increases. Barton was president of the group when it was known as Chambersburg Area Taxpayers Association.

"I always do analysis before I make any recommendations," said Barton. He said one question would be whether some or all administrators should return their increases.

"Where do you start and stop?" Barton asked.

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