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Waynesboro board faces tough budget issues

March 08, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — What started as a 2011-12 preliminary budget update from Waynesboro Superintendent James Robertson turned into an hour-long dialogue between the school board, disgruntled teachers and concerned taxpayers.

Robertson outlined three ways the Waynesboro Area School Board can choose to fill the district's projected $1.26 million shortfall during the board's meeting at the Waynesboro Area Senior High School Tuesday night.

One included no tax increase, but with deep cuts to personnel and programs. Another would raise taxes by the Act 1-mandated 1.5 mills and still need significant cuts to some areas. And the third would increase taxes by 6.4 mills through exceptions and seek no further cuts.

One mill equates to $1 for every $1,000 in property value for taxpayers.

Robertson, who highlighted a list of potential programs that could be cut from the budget, said the district must find cuts to balance its $50.6 million spending plan without sacrificing essential programs to meet the state's Chapter 4 requirements for core subjects.

"It's not just Waynesboro," Robertson said of the difficult situation the district is facing. "It's across the state; it's across the nation."

Six professional positions through retirement and four support staff positions would be eliminated in next year's budget, which closes the shortfall by about $700,000, Robertson said.

Programs brought up as potential cuts included areas not under Chapter 4 mandates, such as languages, exploratory courses and several non-essential positions. But the elimination of elementary level music programs brought great displeasure from the large crowd, predominantly filled with teachers, who still don't have a new contract.

An additional 7.1 mills on top of the 6.4 would be required to fund just the first two years of a new teachers' contract, according to the most recent fact-finder's proposal, board member Leland Lemley said.

Several people spoke up during public comment about potential cuts, including teachers, students and the district's music department chairman, who said he was never approached about how they could cut costs within the department without eliminating programs.

"I realize this is just a first cut — but we have an awful lot of work to do," said board member Billie Finn, who believes the mentality of the board should be to retain as many programs for students as possible.

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