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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

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 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 and 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

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.

Bill Baker June 26, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Pension reform is not only necessary in Pennsylvania but across the country. For example. A long time friend early retired from a position in the New Jersey education department. He told me his pension is greater than his salary.
Stella Neely June 26, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Thank you to the three directors that had the guts to vote against the budget! I, for one, appreciate it!
Pickles June 26, 2012 at 01:49 PM
It is not only pension reform needing looked at across the land. Any state that places school taxes on somebody simply because they are a home owner needs looked at. School taxes should be paid by parents. Not the 25 year old home own with no children, the 60 year old home owner with no children in the school system, or a disabled person who happens to own a home, but again no children. I pay as much school taxes as my neighbor with 4 children. Why? I do not have any children in the school system. I should not be responsible for educating children I choose to not have. If you can not pay educate your child, dont have so many. School taxes should not be on the shoulders of a home owner, BUT on the shoulders of a PARENT!
Jaison Metnick June 26, 2012 at 02:45 PM
You don't have a clue. I have 2 small children, but I'm not griping about my taxes because the monies go to other things not just the schools. Parks, roads, public works issues, etc. You expect parents to pay for all of those issues too? You're out of your mind. Are the taxes too high? Yes, but the problem is a direct result of unsustainable pensions and over spending not parents that are homeowners. You should pay the school taxes because its obvious you need educated.
Sum June 26, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I respectfully disagree with Pickles - the benefit of educating children is not only for parents - we are discussing the next generation of doctors, mechanics, and scientists who will be to the benefit of all citizens and not just parents. As a society, we should put a lot of value and the commensurate funding into education - in fact, we can look at education as one of our best tools for defense as a nation as well. If we continue to lose our footing as a nation that is innovative and productive, then we will also lose our position of safety against many other nations and possibly lose our entire way of life. All that being said, it is disgusting that we continue to see tax hike after tax hike to NO BENEFIT for our educational system...in fact, we see that our tax contributions are increasing while programs for the children are being cut. I'm ready at this point to take action and will be contacting my elected officials and attending the school board meetings beginning in August - I hope that all of you will, too.
Pickles June 26, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Then perhaps EVERYBODY should pay the school taxes. Not just property owners. That way the parents who avoid school taxes by renting will also be contributing to their own children's education. Yes let EVERYBODY pay for the next generation. I mean since you say WE ALL benefit from educating others children :-)
Pierre June 26, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I have to respectfully disagree with Pickles- the rental theory is not a valid argument. Renters do not avoid taxes by "renting." Tenants pay taxes indirectly through their landlords. A portion of rent is applied towards the tax bill that a landlord owes. A landlord generally determines rent rates based on carry costs of a property- utilities, insurance, maintenance and taxes. The portion that is left- is then profit. So, to say that renters do not pay their fair share is not a valid point. Of course, when taxes and other carry cost go up for landlords- rent goes up. This often makes an affordable rental even more difficult to find especially in our area.
James W. Wood June 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM
The Buck stops at the top ! It was not long ago when the Seneca Valley School District wanted one million dollars for a new Press Box at their current stadium . (not much of a expenditure in the grand scheme of things since other schools had newer and nicer ones than we do) Six of the nine school board members were in favor of the changes. Just keep on raising taxes and building schools that look like college campuses and give the bill to the tax payers no matter what the economy is doing . Explain that to Grandma and Grandpa when they have to sell their homes and move into a trailer park because they do not have enough money left to live in the home they paid a mortgage on for 30 years. So.........the School Board thinks we need to have Pension Reform? Well shame on those evil teachers that taught us and cared about us and wanted us to become something in life ... and the School board wants us to believe the teachers are the problem ? The School board needs a reality check.
Boyerwedum June 27, 2012 at 01:25 AM
James There's no new press box.
Boyerwedum June 27, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Just keep raising those taxes! Bravo! The more we spend the better off the kids are right?? Or is it some school board members that benefit? I did some checking and it seems there's what I perceive to be a conflict of of interests on this School Board. I believe some vetting is due. Check the following Board Members and some ties they have to Seneca Valley: - Reid Moon representing Zelienople Borough, Region 6 - just so happens he's a bus driver for the district. Aren't their rules about school employees being on their Boards? -Kelly Kopera representing Evans City and Seven Fields boroughs, Region 7 - her sister is a language teacher up at the secondary campus. Isn't this a direct line to the teacher's union. Anyone see a conflict here? -Jeanette Lahm representing Cranberry Township East I & II, Region 1 - she's a substitute teacher for Seneca Valley. Does anyone see a problem here with these 3 on this board? Who are they representing and tell me how tax increases don't benefit them directly.
Pickles June 27, 2012 at 12:45 PM
The bottom line is there needs to be a better way of having things accomplished than always tossing it on a homeowner.Example:The school wants something new to benefit "after school programs",dont give that to home owners via taxes. If it is true that we need to all help raise these children as they are our tomorrow, then we should ALL be paying the taxes.NOT just home owners.Tax every person 18 or older a base tax every year.Just because I can afford to live in a .5M home does not mean I should have to pay more taxes or educate more in the school systems.Have everybody pay an equal share.AND especially those who HAVE these children yet aren't home owners and pay NO school tax. Over the years,politicians found "key" words to use to excuse all this ridiculous spending, ie: it benefits all citizens to buy a new stadium for our children to play in,that is so not true! And since I am to benefit from these future leaders in our community, does this mean I am to receive free medical care from our future doctors? Free legal advice from our future lawyers? Politicians want to claim that my school taxes are to teach these children and benefit all when these children are adults.How am I to benefit?Based on that "theory", since I am paying for their education,I should get free service from them once they are in the adult world. Otherwise,it is just a ONE WAY street. Wake up people,school taxes should not only fall to a home owner and it is the PARENTS who need to pay the majority
Jaison Metnick July 01, 2012 at 12:06 AM
You by yourself are paying for their education? So you should get free service from them as adults? Where do you come up with this garbage? Are you for real? If you don't want to pay school taxes like most civilized people go fake your own death, buy a ton of property in the middle of nowhere and leave us alone. Think that sounds nuts? It is and so are you.
Jeff D April 27, 2013 at 07:08 AM
How is it you blame these 3 on this topic but when Eric Gordon declares he's running for Cranberry Twp Supervisor you shift your blame to the conservative responsible for reeling in the district's out of control spend-and-tax policies? Please keep in mind the budget shortfall has declined drastically with everfy passing year he's been in there. The only thing he's run into the ground is the defecit.. and that's a good thing.

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