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School board passes budget without raising taxes

June 23, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School Board approved a 2009-10 budget on Tuesday and held the line on property taxes by dipping into its savings account for $668,000.

Real estate taxes will remain at 82.59 mills in order to fund the $50.3 million budget. The board made $1 million in cuts, including summer school, three teacher aide positions and overtime.

The district will have about $2.1 million in savings when tax payments come in, although that amount could decrease by another $800,000 if the state budget ultimately reflects a Pennsylvania Senate proposal. Some board members said they are concerned about raiding the savings account out of fear that a "catastrophic event" will occur and leave them broke.

"I do not want a burden on taxpayers," said board member Gregory Ochoa, who suggested using savings to eliminate the deficit.

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"I don't like the idea of dropping the fund balance that low, but we might have to do that," board member John Fitz said.

Board members Firmadge Crutchfield, Edward Wilson, Leland Lemley and Mindy Rouzer voted against the budget. Fitz, Ochoa, K. Marilyn Smith, Chris Devers and Pat Heefner voted in favor.

"I feel this budget it financially irresponsible. ... I feel we have missed multiple opportunities to balance this budget internally," Crutchfield said, reiterating his past comments that administrators should've been forced to present a balanced budget.

The board negotiated the budget at several specially scheduled meetings in recent weeks.

"We had several budget workshops. To be honest with you, I was disappointed by them," said Smith, the board president.

Ochoa suggested forming two committees at the start of the academic year. The first would ask staff members from all departments, whether teachers, custodians or principals, to present money-saving ideas for 2010-11. The second would assess data from various programs to determine whether they work.

Spared from being cut this year was the gymnastics program, which received a show of support from dozens of students, parents and alumni at the meeting.

In other business, the board agreed that Waynesboro Area Senior High School Assistant Principal Brian Richter would be hired as the new middle school principal at $85,000 a year. Principal Larry Bricker retired effective in August.

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