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Public speaks out on proposed Greencastle-Antrim school budget

May 03, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Supporters of Tayamentasachta Center for Environmental Studies hold signs outside the Greencastle-Antrim School Board meeting Thursday night.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Concerned community members and parents packed Thursday’s Greencastle-Antrim School Board meeting, telling board members that balancing the budget by cutting teachers, the director of the school district’s environmenal center and aides, or increasing class size was not acceptable.

The school board unanimously approved the proposed 2012-13 final general fund budget. With expenditures at $33,151,082 and revenues at $32,700,249, the district is looking at a budgetary shortfall of $450,833.

Charles White, the former director of Tayamentasachta Center for Environmental Studies, was the first person to address the board during the public comment portion of the board meeting. He was given three minutes to express his concerns.

“It is the director who implements the programs (at Tayamentasachta) by preparing the necessary materials, scheduling the teachers to participate and teaching the lessons,” White said. “Those who think the center’s programs will continue as they are without an educator are mistaken.”

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Greencastle-Antrim High School senior Nathan Hykes said the proposed reassignment of Kerrie Barnes from her position as director of Tayamentasachta would be a “sad event.”

He said the program at the school farm helps instill in young people a love of science and that is what helped him define science as the field he wanted to pursue.

“Moving the director would prove ruinous,” Hykes said to a round of applause.

Kelly Hefner, a parent of two elementary-age children, said when she was moving to the area she was impressed by Greencastle’s student-to-teacher ratio. But, now she’s worried.

“I am very concerned about increasing class sizes,” she said.

Hefner urged the board not to be shortsighted and be more creative in finding ways to run the district in the midst of a budget crisis without cutting staffing and programs.

The approved proposed, final budget does not include a tax increase.

Business Manager Dick Lipella said the district could raise taxes a maximum of 2 mills in 2012-13. One mill brings in about $183,000 in revenue to the district, he said.

If the board chooses to raise taxes during the final budget vote, Lipella said a 2-mill increase would mean about $40 for the average taxpayer.

The district’s deficit now stands at approximately $100,000 in part because of $150,000 from a Keystone Opportunity Grant and Greencastle’s contribution to Franklin County Career and Technology Center is $125,000 less, Lipella said.

Even though the board passed the proposed, final general fund budget, things could change before the final budget is passed in June, Lipella said.

On May 17, the board will tackle some major decisions on whether to cut the Tayamentasachta environmental center director’s position, which would save approximately $85,000 (salary and benefits) and about 10 aides districtwide, saving the district $200,000.

With the board facing a $1 million deficit in 2013-14, the board is also considering cutting all sports and extracurricular programs next year. The board is expected to wrestle with that issue on May 17.

Board member Joel Fridgen requested a separate vote that would cut the director of Tayamentasachta from the budget as well as a separate vote on cutting sports and extracurricular activities.

“I think the public has a right to know where the individual board members stand,” Fridgen said.

Even though sports and extracurricular activities aren’t being considered for cuts until next year, Fridgen wants the public to be aware now.

“The bottom line is if sports aren’t offered here for the 2013-14 school year, parents might move. They might look at other school districts. They might make other arrangements if they know that’s going to happen,” Fridgen said.

Schools superintendent C. Gregory Hoover said he doesn’t want to see anything taken away from the students.

“But when you look at the budget, there’s only certain things (you can cut) when you take into consideration state and federal regulations and (teacher) contract requirements — there’s only certain things you can look at,” Hoover said.

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