Seneca Valley Board Approves Proposed $94 Million Budget
District officials will vote in May on a final budget that raises taxes while cutting programs and positions.
In a 6-3 vote Monday night, Seneca Valley School Board members approved a proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year that includes a 5.6 millage increase for residents and the curtailment of a half-dozen district programs.
The $94 million spending plan will be made available to the public for 30 days. Officials hope to vote on a final budget at the May school board meeting. Board members Joseph Scalamogna, James Welsh and Eric DiTullio voted against the proposed budget.
By increasing activity fees and cutting back on programs, the budget addresses the $10 million deficit the district is facing in the next school year due to extensive planned cuts to state education funding across the commonwealth.
Faced with that prospect, the district’s administration team recommended cuts that include alterations to the business education, physical education, foreign language, guidance, elementary education and alternative learning center programs.
Altogether, the move will affect 16 full-time teaching positions and one part-time position.
According to officials, the reason for the program cuts was a decline in course enrollments. Because of teachers leaving through an early-retirement incentive, board President Robert Hill said the district made additional cuts to programs across the district that did not require a board vote..
In March, the board accepted the retirement of 36 teachers, who will not be replaced. That is expected to save the district $2.88 million. The budget also calls for the elimination of support positions, including two nursing, seven library, and four building positions, and one preschool and one SAVE position.
“There were deep cuts to many departments,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale said after board member James Welsh asked why the business department was being downsized. “I want to point that out.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matthew McKinley added that many of the skills taught in the business courses can be transferred to other departments and courses. Programs would be pared but would not be eliminated, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeff Fuller said.
Business department courses Law I and Law II, marketing for sports, and marketing for fashion retail will be dropped, but other business classes will be absorbed into math, social studies and tech-ed programs. The Accounting I and II, technical support, and co-op programs will remain.
“There are no programs we are doing away with completely,” Fuller said.
Teacher Kathy Mahoney, who spoke on behalf of the business and technical department, said she was disappointed by the outcome of Monday’s meeting. According to her numbers, she said, enrollment in the business classes actually has grown in recent years.
Several students also spoke in support of the business department at last week’s board workshop meeting
“I’m really disappointed for the students,” Mahoney said. “The students are the ones who are losing out.”
If the final budget is approved as is, McKinley said, about 500 students would be affected by the program changes. Those students would register again for other classes as needed, he said.
Superintendent Dr. Donald J. Tylinski said teachers associated with eliminated programs would not automatically be furloughed. Many of them are dual and triple certified, he said, and are qualified to teach several subjects.
Up next for district officials is the complicated “bumping” process, a seniority-based layoff system where a teacher with more tenure can bump a junior educator from the classroom.
Tylinski said that process would take months to figure out. Until then, he said, he did not know how many teachers would face layoffs.
The budget also would raise the student activities fee from $5 to $75 per student per athletic activity. The amount will not exceed $225 per family per year. A per-student fee for nonathletic activities also would be raised from $5 to $25. That amount is capped at $75 per family per year.
The district also would raise parking permit fees from $35 per year to $60 per semester, for a total of $120 per year. Students also will pay $25 for an annual student pass to use the activity bus, which had been free.
Because of schedule conflicts, Hill said he has not been able to set up a meeting with the Seneca Valley Education Association to ask for a one-year pay freeze from teachers. The district’s 49-person administration team already has agreed to a one-year salary freeze.
The district cannot calculate how much it would save if teachers accept a freeze until the bumping process is complete, Business Manager Lynn Burtner said.
The district spared several programs that originally were on the chopping block. Those include the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps program, and the seventh- and eighth-grade cross-country and track and field teams.
The board will next meet for its workshop meeting at 8 p.m. on for May 9. The regular board meeting will be held at 8 p.m. May 16.
Seneca Valley by the Numbers
|$27.3 billion||The proposed state budget by Gov. Tom Corbett|
|$94, 032,198||Seneca Valley's spending plan approved in its proposed 2011-12 budget|
|$10 million||The deficit the district faces for the 2011-12 school year|
|$2.88 million||The amount saved by the district through an early-retirement incentive|
|$2.75 million||The amount to be raised by a 5.6 mill tax increase
|$100,000||The amount the district will save by taking over the elementary life skills program previously operated by Intermediate Unit 4|
|49||The number of administrators who took a one-year pay freeze.|
|36||The number of teachers who took the early retirement incentive|
|7||Teachers in the business department affected by the cutbacks|
|4||Teachers in the physical education department affected by the cutbacks|
|3||Teachers in the elementary education program affected by the cutbacks|
|1||Guidance position affected by the cutbacks|
|1||Elimination of a French-language position|
|0||The cost to view the proposed budget before it comes up for a final vote at the May school board meeting|