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Waynesboro school board works into the night to pass preliminary budget

May 19, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Parents and taxpayers in the Waynesboro Area School District were in doubt Tuesday if their elected representatives were properly balancing fiscal responsibility with the obligation to educate their children.

Discussion of the 2010-11 budget continued well into the night, with board members hoping to whittle the remaining $496,513 deficit to zero and adopt a preliminary budget.

At midnight, the board voted to approve a preliminary budget with a deficit of $350,000. The amount is approximately what would be generated by a 1.5 mill tax increase.

By law, the district has to put a balanced budget out for voter review, said board member Leland Lemley.

"We can't go back to the fund balance and hit it like we did last year," he said.

Proposed line items on the chopping block Tuesday included the gymnastics program at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, an elementary guidance counselor position, elementary Spanish, on-the-road driver education, support staff positions and the bus contractor. A pay-to-play program for athletics also was considered.

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"What you are telling me is we would rather cut my child's safety than raise millage a mill or two?" said Jessica Bryan, president of the Waynesboro Area Education Association.

Lemley opened the discussion by asking members of the public to tell him other places to cut or other sources of revenue that could balance the budget.

"Push rental use of our facility, our gym and auditorium," said Sherry Cline.

"I'll throw my $17 dollars in. That is what a mill costs, right?" said district teacher Mike Engle, advocating discussion of a tax increase.

A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Elementary Spanish, which has been an item of discussion for weeks, hit the cutting-room floor, while the elementary guidance counselor and high school gymnastics program lived to see another discussion.

Cutting Elementary Spanish would shave $44,619 from the deficit, said Business Administrator Caroline Dean.

District Superintendent James Robertson said filling the counselor position with a younger employee could save $23,000 in attrition.

On-the-road driver education also survived, but eliminating a full-time physical education position at Waynesboro Area Middle School and hiring a part-timer would save $46,000.

Pay-to-play was held for future discussion as the board considers what it will charge, and any caps or exceptions.

Nothing cut Tuesday is set in stone, board member Pat Heefner pointed out, as a simple majority vote could put an item back on the budget anytime between now and when it goes for final approval in June.

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