Seneca Valley Approves Final Budget with 4.4 Mill Tax Increase
The spending plan addresses at $4.8 million shortfall for next year.
In a 6-3 vote, Seneca Valley School Board members on Monday gave final approval to a $97.4 million budget for 2012-13 school year that includes a 4.4 mill increase in real estate taxes.
By cutting more than a dozen positions—and increasing student activity, lunch and parking fees—the budget closes a $4.8 million dollar shortfall the district faced next year.
School board members Jim Nickel, James Welsh and Eric DiTullio voted against approving the budget.
Nicke continued to advocate raising property taxes by 3.9 mills, which is .5 mills less than the 4.4 mills approved by the board.
“I think that it's a little further than we should go in this process in terms of revenue generation,” he said of the millage increase.
Each mill of tax yields about $500,000, meaning .5 mills would have generated about $250,000.
Although he voted “no” Monday, Nickel said he would support the board’s decision to approve the budget.
“I will embrace it,” he said. “I will support it. I’ll fight for it and defend it as we go through this next fiscal year.”
Officials eliminated 15.5 teaching positions to balance the budget, including cuts to the art, mathematics, English and special education departments.
The board also eliminated four administrative positions, which were the assistant director of buildings and grounds, the attendance officer, the assistant principal position at the Evans City middle and elementary school and the assistant principal position at the senior high school.
Some administrators who filled those positions have since moved to new roles.
Dr. Sandra Krivak-Fowler, formerly assistant principal at the Evans City schools, on Monday was named principal of Evans City elementary and middle schools. She replaces Thomas Hallman, who retired in June.
Jeffrey Roberts, former assistant principal at the senior high school, is now assistant principal at Seneca Valley Cyber.
Altogether, the district will have 18 less full-time employees working for it in the 12-13 school year. Last year, the district eliminated 69 positions to bridge a $10 million budget shortfall.
The budget also increases school-related fees.
The athletic activity fee jumps from $75 to $125 dollars under the plan, with the amount not to exceed $375 per family, per year. The non-athletic performance fee goes from $25 to $50 dollars, not to exceed $150 per family, per year. The non-athletic club fee also will increase from $25 to $35 dollars. That amount will be capped $105 per family, per year. Officials also approved a school-owned musical instrument rental fee of $100.
Cafeteria meals also will be more expensive next year. Breakfasts will go from $1.25 to $1.45, elementary lunch will go from $1.75 to $1.95 and secondary lunch will go from $2 to $2.25.
In an effort to cut down on building costs, the custodial and secretarial staff will adjust their schedules to a four-day workweek in the summer months.
Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale said the staff will work all their hours Monday through Thursday instead of Monday through Friday. The district’s buildings will shut down on Fridays until shortly before school resumes for the 2012-13 school year.
How The Proposed Tax Increase Affects You
Seneca Valley business manager Lynn Burtner said taxpayers with homes that have a $100,000 market value could expect to pay an average of about $60 more in taxes per year. For residents with homes with a market value of $200,000, the amount doubles to an additional $120 per year.
Board Calls for Pension Reform
Cathy Rape, mayor of Harmony, and Earl Grubbs, a retired Cranberry Township resident, also spoke on the budget during the meeting’s public comment portion.
Grubbs questioned the board's plans for the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System. Officials have predicted the district’s contribution to the teacher retirement fund will increase by $7 million in the next four years.
“What steps have you taken, or plan to take, to mitigate this $7 million increase so as not to exponentially increase residential real estate taxes on the backs of homeowners who already feel a 10-percent tax increase over these past two years was painful enough?” Grubbs asked.
In response, DiTullio noted the district’s contribution to the retirement fund is mandated by the state. He added board members, along with Vitale, have spoken many times with state house and senate representatives to lobby for pension reform.
He asked Grubbs—and the public—to do the same.
“We are begging everyone out there to call, to write, go see your local legislators and say this has to be fixed,” he said.
For a full look at the budget, click on the PDF on the upper right side of this article.