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BOE proposal $1.4 million over budget

March 24, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The first draft of the Waynesboro Area School Board's 2009-10 budget projects $1.4 million in spending beyond the $49.3 million expected in revenues.

Board members acknowledged Tuesday they could eliminate the deficit in three ways -- raise property taxes, draw down a $2.9 million savings account or with a combination of the first two options.

But first, they plan to join administrators in taking a hard look at costs and ways they can be cut further.

"I've already gone through and identified things I don't think will hurt the educational process too bad," Superintendent James L. Robertson said, adding he will soon meet with building principals to look for further cuts.

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The slumping economy means less earned income and realty transfer tax revenue for the school district. Officials budgeted federal stimulus money increases to their basic education subsidies, but they don't know how much of their overall possible $2 million would be tied to mandatory new expenses outlasting the stimulus package's cash infusion.

"We're not sure what we can do or how we can use those federal moneys," Robertson said.

"We don't have conclusive information on what money we will receive or what mandatory items" are involved, Business Administrator Caroline Dean echoed.

Her early budget projections include a 3.1 percent increase in salaries (many contractually obligated); no new positions; no overtime except security and snow removal; eliminating summer school; and a 14 percent increase in electricity costs. She increased the amount going to state retirement reimbursements, hiked the amount required for charter schools, slashed travel allowances, decreased supplies funding 20 percent and cut $88,000 from the account used to buy textbooks.

"I do fear we have a lot of educational tools we will not be able to purchase," Dean said.

The board earlier agreed not to raise property taxes beyond a 4.295-mill cap set by the state. Each mill costs property owners $1 for each $1,000 of their assessed property value, and each mill brings in about $215,000 for the school district.

The district must pass its 2009-10 budget and submit it to the Pennsylvania Department of Education by June 30.

In other business, the school board reduced the dollar amount allowed to be approved by the superintendent in regard to construction-related change orders. Some $266,000 worth of change orders have been submitted for the renovation and expansion of Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

The superintendent had been permitted to approve change orders costing up to $50,000, but now he cannot approve those above $3,000. Instead, they will go before a committee of board members Edward Wilson, Pat Heefner and Greg Ochoa.

Purchase orders of $50,000 or more will go before the board as a whole.

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