Budget stalemate persists with Pa. board

April 19, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Looming budget cuts in the Waynesboro Area School District drew a crowd of about 50 to Tuesday's school board meeting, where students, teachers and parents argued the benefits of various programs.

Preserving foreign language programs received the most support.

"Most of the growth potential for U.S. businesses lies in the global market," said Kimberly Schlegel, a parent.

"French and German would only help us in the professional world," said Claire Martin, a high-school student.

Board member Billie Finn said the school board is doing the best it can with limited resources. She said she doesn't hear input from the teachers and public on ways to tackle an anticipated $1.9 million deficit, which is after two support staff positions and six teachers are cut.

"Raise the taxes," several people in the audience said in response to Finn.

Because of state restrictions, the school board is limited in the amount by which it can raise taxes. For 2011-12, the board could raise taxes by up to 6.49 mills.

A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 assessed property value. In the Waynesboro Area School District, the average cost per mill is $17.11 for property owners.

"We will raise taxes," board member Leland Lemley said. "I don't think you'll see us raise taxes 6.4 mills."

Mont Alto, Pa., resident Tawnya Finney told the school board it needs to have vision and "leaders who will fight for programs, fight to keep programs and not (fight) with each other."

Lemley said the district stands to lose $2.5 million if the Pennsylvania General Assembly passes a budget similar to what is proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

"Personally, I'm going to fight for languages. I'm not going to cut Latin and leave 'advanced sewing concepts' and 'food for today,'" board member Sherry Cline said.

Learning support teacher Christine Bradley said courses with hands-on skills are important for the students she teaches.

"My students don't choose to take languages. It's very hard for them," she said.

Bradley said the district has gone downhill since the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

"You're supposed to be a unified group of people (as a school board). ... You have taken us down," she said, after saying the board should have raised taxes incrementally all along.

Higher revenue would only lead to having more things to cut now, Lemley said.

Superintendent James Robertson said he received 17 cards in support of the Latin program as well as a letter supporting the French program from 1999 graduate Tom Rottcher, who is employed by the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. French Ambassador Francois Delattre also sent a letter in support of teaching the language.

The board is scheduled to meet next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the administration building on Clayton Avenue. Board members and the superintendent are compiling a list of classes and programs not required by the state for use in discussions about cuts.


On the chopping block

Options for cuts in the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District:
Gymnastics: $23,113
Elementary field trips: $15,650
Technology facilitator: $35,555
Gifted teacher: $52,595
Building and trades for WASHS: $82,771
Health care technology: $64,493
Driver’s education: $75,582
Grade-level coordinator/team leader: $62,000
Reading coordinator: $52,595
Social worker: $35,000
German program: $55,447
Latin program: $78,498
Reading and math exploration: $319,102
ES counselor: $89,300

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