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Waynesboro school board tackles budget deficit

May 07, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School Board made little progress in making cuts from its 2009-10 budget during a workshop Thursday.

The meeting started with continued debate about stipends paid to employees who took on extra duties. Discussion later moved out of the "salaries" and "benefits" categories, on which the board has focused for three weeks, and onto all of the other items that comprise the general fund.

The only direction given to the administration was to:

o Find out how many students participate in extracurricular activities and how much money could be generated by charging a fee of about $10 for participation.

o Provide the amount spent on mailing report cards and progress reports.

o Provide the number of students attending Manito and other alternative education venues.

o Estimate how much could be saved by asking each sport to skip one extra invitational event or tournament not associated with its regular season.

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A $923,058 deficit remains between anticipated expenditures and revenue in drafts of the $50 million budget. Administrators told the board they've cut everything possible without affecting "kids in the classroom."

Further complicating the negotiations is a Pennsylvania Senate proposal that would use federal stimulus dollars in lieu of $730 million planned for the "basic education subsidy" divided among state schools. Pennsylvania Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak sent out an e-mail Wednesday saying that plan not only would keep basic education funding stagnant in the coming fiscal year, but also leave a $730 million hole when federal stimulus funds expire in two years.

Caroline Dean, Waynesboro's business administrator, said she had been expecting $800,000 in increased funding from the state. Drafts of the budget include that revenue.

She originally asked the board to adopt a preliminary budget May 12, but some board members said they feel nowhere near ready to do that.

Board member Firmadge Crutchfield didn't say anything during the two-hour workshop until the conclusion, when he repeated earlier criticism of the budget process. He said the administration needed to present a balanced budget rather than "work backward" and present a budget that has a deficit.

Crutchfield identified what he called a pattern of "failure to make the hard decisions" and referred to a mentality of treating taxpayers as "the golden goose."

"I think the process is still flawed," he said. "I did not feel this meeting was productive at all."

"Some of the cuts may, a little bit, have gone too far," Superintendent James Robertson said.

Board member Gregory Ochoa asked Crutchfield to consider Waynesboro spends less per pupil ($6,988) than other districts in Franklin County. He said he is not in favor of tax increases either, but said perhaps the budget has been pared all it can without making decisions that could affect student achievement.

The board next meets Tuesday at 5 p.m. to further talk about the budget. Those discussions will be followed by its regular session meeting about 7 p.m.

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