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Stalled teacher talks could lead to last-minute budget changes

Waynesboro Area School board is considering a 1-mill tax hike for 2012-2013

May 31, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Stalled teacher contract negotiations in the Waynesboro Area School District could lead to last-minute changes in the annual operating budget before it is approved.

The school board must approve a final budget and submit it to the state by June 30. It is considering a 1-mill property tax increase for 2012-13.

The school board wants to tie any salary increases to savings that would come from teachers contributing more to their health care coverage, board member Rita Daywalt said.

The tax increase is not connected to any possible changes in a teacher contract, Daywalt said.

“This board will not raise the (tax) millage to support salary and benefits packages, period,” she said.

However, changes to health care options must be submitted to the insurance provider by June 15. That could affect the documentation associated with budgeting, according to Business Administer Robert Walker.

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The $50.8 million preliminary budget adopted by the school board Tuesday holds the line in many areas, Walker said.

The district, like others across Pennsylvania, is facing hefty increases in its contributions to the state pension system, he said.

“In the state of Pennsylvania, schools are falling every day to bankruptcy and insolvency,” Daywalt said, noting that Waynesboro’s board is fighting to avoid that situation locally.

The preliminary budget for 2012-13 reflects a $645,000 deficit, largely because of one-time expenses already designated for payment from the district’s fund balance.

The $5.5 million fund balance, which is essentially a savings account, will pay for things like paving, new cafeteria tables at Fairview and Summitview elementary schools, new cafeteria flooring and carpeting at Fairview and new computer hardware and software.

One mill of taxes generates about $240,000 in revenue for the school district, Walker said. The new tax rate would be 86.5 mills, he said.

For a taxpayer, a mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Each mill costs the district’s average property owner $17.

Walker said the preliminary budget does not reflect major staff or program changes, although staff may be shifted into new positions because of retirements.

Without adjustments to its health care program, the district is facing staff cuts in two years, Daywalt said.

The board offered the teachers union two “bottom-line” options earlier this week. The union voted them down, saying the options were non-negotiated items.

It was not clear Thursday when the sides might get together for another bargaining session. 

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