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Tuscarora School District waiting on state budget

School board is trying to offer retirement incentives to avoid furloughs

March 01, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

Mercersburg, Pa. — Faced with receiving $1.25 million less from the state of Pennsylvania, there's little the Tuscarora School District can do but bide its time until Gov. Tom Corbett unveils his 2011-12 budget Tuesday.

"We're waiting for the state to tell us what's going to happen in terms of subsidiaries," said Eric Holtzman, business manager for the school district.

Only a handful of people attended Monday's special town meeting at James Buchanan Middle School.

With the state facing a $4 billion shortfall, Tuscarora's piece of the pie — along with those of other school districts — has been trimmed drastically.

The state has indicated it could revert to 2007-08 figures in order to cut costs.

That means the Tuscarora School District would receive $7.4 million instead of $8.4 million.

"It's not the rosiest picture in the world, but it's a reality," Holtzman said.

With salaries and benefits being the biggest chunk of the district's budget, Holtzman said the school board is trying to offer retirement incentives to avoid furloughs.

School board President Clifford Smith said the board doesn't want to furlough anyone, but that option exists.

"We don't know enough to even speculate at this point how much money we lose. We know we're going to lose. The amount of the loss will dictate how severe the cuts become and how much we do that's disruptive to students," Smith said. "We don't want to disrupt students, but the more we cut, the more disruption will occur."

He said that the governor's pledge of no new taxes places the district in an uncomfortable situation.

Holtzman said the district will stay within the Act 1 tax cap of 1.8 percent, or 1.9 mills, but must look at ways to shave costs in order to balance its $32 million budget.

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

One thing is certain: The school budget must be passed by June 30.

Smith said there will be more town meetings. He encouraged the public to attend the next board meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at James Buchanan High School.

Also during the town meeting, Holtzman said the district is reviewing ways to equalize class sizes across the three Mercersburg-area elementary schools.

"We want to equalize class sizes. We want to make things a little more fair," Holtzman said.

Mercersburg Elementary School has 104 students in grades two to five, while Montgomery and Mountain View each have 76.

The board is reviewing transportation and attendance zones to equalize class sizes. Before a decision is made, Holtzman and Smith said more town meetings and board meetings will be held.

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If you go ...

What:
Tuscarora School District board meeting

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Where: James Buchanan High School library

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