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It's budget crunch time for local school boards

June 23, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Chambersburg Area and Waynesboro Area school boards plan to adopt their 2009-10 budgets this week, despite not knowing how much they will receive in state funding.

The amount proposed for education subsidies has varied greatly in budgets put forward by Gov. Ed Rendell and the Pennsylvania Senate. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has not put forward its own proposal.

The state and its 500 school districts share a budget deadline of June 30. However, The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News recently reported that Rendell has already talked about canceling his August safari trip if budget negotiations continue.

That could jeopardize distribution of aid checks to school districts.

"It obviously would put a (financial) hardship on the district. If it goes to Labor Day, it'll be a stretch, but we'll make it," Waynesboro Superintendent James Robertson said, saying dipping into savings or issuing short-term loans would be options.

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Waynesboro's school board is expected to adopt its $50 million budget tonight. Possible cuts being discussed include summer school, several teacher's aides positions, building repairs and the gymnastics program.

The board agreed not to raise taxes more than 4.295 mills, which would be an additional $72 for the average homeowner assuming the average house is assessed at $16,700. Assessed value is different than appraised value.

The Chambersburg Area School Board is scheduled to finalize its $102 million budget Wednesday evening. It has been considering a 4.9 percent tax increase.

District officials already cut the budget by almost $2.3 million, and now they've gone further because of fears that state funding will be less than the governor's plan.

"Our budget is going to show (an additional) reduction of $527,000," Business Manager Steve Dart said.

That will be accomplished by reassigning staff members into vacancies created by retirements and resignations, he said.

Similar reassignments allowed the Tuscarora School Board to pass its budget June 8, Business Manager Eric R. Holtzman said.

The 2.9-mill property tax increase was designated for capital reserve funds for building improvements, he said.

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board passed its budget in early June with no tax increase.

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