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Seneca Valley School Board Splits 5-4 on Final Budget Approval

The $94.5 million spending plan calls for a 5.6-mill tax increase.

Despite pleas from several board members to delay a vote until a state House counterproposal to Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget plan is resolved, Seneca Valley School Board officials in a 5-4 decision Monday approved the 2011-2012 school year budget.

The $94.5 million spending plans increase real estate taxes by 5.6 mills and curtails a half-dozen district programs. Board members Eric DiTullio, Anthony Storti, Joseph Scalamogna and James Welsh voted against approving the budget.

By increasing activity fees, cutting back on programs, and adding to the millage rate, the budget addresses the the district faces in the next school year.

Supported by DiTullio and Storti, Scalamogna was the first to request that the board wait before approving the budget until state budget matters are determined. Last week, the House Republican majority unveiled its alternative to Corbett’s budget plan, which calls for major cuts to education funding. While the House plan maintains the governor’s $27.3 billion bottom line, it shifts money earmarked for public welfare programs to public education.

According to the state’s House Republican Caucus, the plan increases K-12 education funding by more than $200 million and includes returning state dollars for basic education funding to 2008-2009 pre-federal stimulus levels. It also restores $100 million for Accountability Block Grants for districts and helps school districts by paying a share of Social Security with $43 million.

As for higher education, the House increased Corbett’s proposal by $380 million. In turn, $470 million would be cut from the Department of Public Welfare.

A decision could be made by next month. The state’s fiscal year ends on the last day of June, the same date the school district is required to have its final budget approved.

“I’m requesting we delay voting until we have a better idea of what the state is going to do,” Scalamogna said.

The funding shift could affect 500 school districts across the state. Scalamogna said it was too early to tell what, if any, money Seneca Valley would receive if the House plan is approved.

He requested that the board pass a resolution that any additional money from the state be used to decrease the millage rate, but solicitor Matt Hoffman said the board couldn’t approve a conditional tax rate. In response to a question from Storti, Hoffman also said the district could not reopen the budget later.

Board member Jeanette Lahm said she was in favor of passing the budget at Monday’s meeting so that the district would not be in limbo.

“There are a number of people with lives who would like to move forward,” she said.

The 2011-2012 budget calls for 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.

In March, the board accepted the , which is expected to save the district $2.88 million. The budget also calls for the elimination of support positions.

The district’s 49-person administrative staff has agreed to a one-year pay freeze. Last week, the Seneca Valley Education Association said from the board to agree to a voluntary one-year pay freeze.

The budget also would raise the student activity and parking permit fees. In a prepared statement he read to the board, DiTullio said he thought members spent too much time discussing the fees and not enough on the tax increase.

“I’m disappointed with the way we’ve handled this year’s budget,” he said.

DiTullio, who is serving his second year on the board, said he also voted against last year’s budget, which called for a 2.76 mill tax increase and the transfer of more than $5 million from the district’s reserve fund to balance the budget.

In the last four years, he noted, the district has spent $10 million of the $17 million it had reserved in the 2007-2008 school year. He blamed the board for the $10 million shortfall the district faces next year.

“This budget crisis that we have is of our own doing,” he said.

He added that the district would likely face a $6 million dollar shortfall next year and would again have to raise taxes to balance the budget.

“The district has overspent over the last four years,” he said. “We’re going to fix that, and we’re not going to let that happen again.”

After rejecting a $4.34 million budget from the Butler County Area Vocation Technical School last month, the board also voted 7-2 to approve a revised budget of $4.19 million. Scalamogna said Seneca Valley’s contribution to the vo-tech school's budget is $416,689.

Pickles May 17, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Terrible. School taxes should go to PARENTS. Just as those who work pay a wage tax. People without children should not be responsible for educating others children. Instead of school taxes to property owners, make it a child school tax and tax the parents!
Paretn May 17, 2011 at 08:05 PM
And who paid for your education? I would bet that some of the taxpayers while you were in school were also childless.
Bill Baker May 18, 2011 at 10:57 AM
The Ohio system works much better. Real estate tax increases, aka school tax increases, are subject to a voter referendum.
Pickles May 18, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Hi Paretn, my PARENTS paid for my education, on their own. And to further my, adult, education, I PAID for it...NOT tax dollars. Besides change has to begin someplace. If YOU want those children, YOU pay for their education. :) Yes, Bill, and hopefully the voters see the unjust in the school tax increase and vote it down. Pass this expense to where it belongs, the people who wanted the children is who should be raising them and paying for it. :)
Woody May 18, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Woody Cranberry grew because of the low taxes. The school board's incompetant decisions on taxing and spending will change that. Why do we elect such incompetant people? The teachers union will not take a pay freeze until we get over this tough time, they would rather lay-off teachers, tell me, do they ever think of the kids they teach? It is time to do away with teachers unions. Many people are unemployed and we in cranberry must put up with this school BS. Time is NOW for real change and get competant people to manage our school money. Tax increases should be voted on by the people, not union run incompetant school boards.
sammy May 19, 2011 at 12:51 AM
I have to laugh at these responses. Did those of you who thought they were escaping taxes really believe that an increase in the number of families with school aged children would result in continued lower taxes? The more people you have, the greater the cost is for services. Also, for the gentleman whose parents must have sent him to private school for his high school and elementary education, you do understand that public schools educate most of your doctors, lawyers, police officers, nurses, accountants, and other working productive members of society. I thought that we lived in a society that enables people to obtain an education that allows them to succeed. My immigrant family members came to this country several generations ago in hopes that their kids would get a good education because their country did not provide this. It is a sad state of affairs today when we tend to pay more for entertainment than education. Most people pay around $150 a month for cable and internet. They also fork out another $100 or so for cell phones. Many families have more cars in than they have space to park and yet people complain about paying for things that truly make our country great. You know that third world countries do not provide education for all members of society and only parents pay for their children's education. This results in extremes in economic status. As an Army vet, I have seen this and it is not pretty. Lack of education breads poverty and crime.
sammy May 19, 2011 at 01:04 AM
By the way, school boards are not union operated. The people of the Seneca district voted for their own school board members. Learn about your local government and how it works. Also, as a resident, you can request a line item budget of your school district. See where your money is going. If you find things that are not right, contact your school board members. The unemployment rate of Cranberry is about 5.6 percent which is lower than the state's average and lower than the national average. The average income is around $68,000 and the median house range is around $215,000. Sounds as if people with two loaves under each arm are crying.
Woody May 19, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Woody Teacher unions are the primary influnce of our school board. Look at other school districts where teachers took a freeze. (right next door at North Allegheny) School teachers are over paid for the 9 months they work, when they have such a high rate of failure rate of education our kids. We should enact a merit performance pay schedule as Florida and many other States have done. Just try to contact a school board member through a e mail, can't happen. It is a sad case when an additional home built(taxes) does not cover the expense of educating a child. Many homes do not have children. It is a fact that Corp. and residents will move out of Cranberry just as they moved out of Allegheny county because of over spending and taxes. It is clear that to much money is being spent by the Seneca school board.
Pickles May 19, 2011 at 02:02 PM
I totally agree Woody. Many of the new homes being, and already built, do not even have children in them. I pay over 4K a year in school taxes alone. Yet NO children in the school system. Who is my school tax dollars going to? We have a local wage tax for the wage earners. Like wise, there should be a child school tax for PARENTS! No childless and surely not senior citizens. Yes, we are the land of opportunity. For those who truly want to build a dream. But sadly, America has also become the land of WELFARE opportunity for those who just want to keep taking. A 16 year old gets pregnant so she can begin her career (WELFARE career). And spend her entire life, or most of it, on welfare. Receiving free or very low housing, free food, free utilities through aid.....oh, and let's not forget FREE EDUCATION. And again, all paid for by the working people wanting to truly develop a land of opportunity and the home owners. America does not need planned parenthood, paid for by tax dollars. They need to tell people to take responsibilities for their choices. You want children, YOU pay to raise them. This is a mighty country. A beautiful choice of life. However, so many have found ways of only using it to their advantage as opposed to helping build it up. I do believe in helping others and even the "pay it forward" ways of life. However, it seems to be all the same (and types) who always and only take. School taxes belong to the parents not a society as a whole.
sammy May 19, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Educating our society is the responsibility of our society. Look, I pay state taxes that go for road repair in areas that I do not drive in. I also pay taxes for veteran services that, even though I am a veteran, I cannot use. I pay for fire departments even though my house is not on fire. I pay social security even though I know that I will never see a dime of it. I do not have elderly parents so why should I pay for services for the elderly? It is called being part of a society. I do believe that some services are abused and I do believe that the welfare system must be reformed. However, I see the necessity in providing services for those who need them. Education is used by all in society. Education is what allows members of our society to have upward mobility. I have served in the military and I have gone to some 3rd world countries and I have seen what happens when you do not have an educated population. They are generally the lower class who have no hopes in rising above and becoming decent wage earners. Why do some of you think that countries like Colombia are able to grow and process cocaine? The mainstream population is very poor and they do what they can to earn money regardless of ethics. By the way, if you plan on moving to an area that does not have school taxes, you will need a passport, plane ticket, and hired security.
Woody May 19, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Woody Sammy, you are brain washed, I bet you belong to a Union
sammy May 19, 2011 at 09:11 PM
No but I am a veteran.....When have you served?
Pickles May 19, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Woody, where is the like button?! :) Thumbs UP to you. It might not be a union job, can also be the welfare hand outs career. :) And well, Sammy, I have served and served well, 25 years... And I have a feeling if this article/conversations was about being a veteran, I'd top you each and every comment. OH, and well, yes, I am one of the ones who receives all I am entitled to as a veteran :)
Woody May 19, 2011 at 09:16 PM
US Army 1961 to 1965
sammy May 19, 2011 at 09:19 PM
I pay for your entitlements just as others pay for them. Yes you made sacrifices for your country as I have but taxes pay your benefits. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. By the way, duck and cover because congress is eying up your pension and other VA benefits. Lets hope that the veterans don't cost too much........... By the way, I have never been on welfare, I have earned all that I have worked for. However, thanks to tax payers, I was able to use the gi bill that was paid for by tax paying citizens.
sammy May 19, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Woody, You have to have a brain to be "brainwashed".
John Q Taxpayer May 20, 2011 at 04:11 PM
" Sounds as if people with two loaves under each arm are crying." This statement is a complete and utter abomination. You're darn right I'll cry about getting taxed. I work hard for the money I earn. As a businessman, I don't make decisions that will waste my company’s money. As a taxpayer, I find it painful to watch inept politicians and quasi-governmental entities (school districts) squander taxpayer dollars on nonsense. It's amazing how schools such as SV can boast all of the wonderful programs they offer to their students, however it is a crying shame that barely any of the students coming out of college can write a business letter, memo, or proper email for that matter. I worked in public accounting for one of the top firms and I have seen it first hand supervising and reviewing other people’s work. It is appalling the lack of focus on the core subjects such as reading, writing, math, science, and history. If you want to cut the budget, then cut all of the ancillary programs and after school BS. On a side note, it's just wonderful the students have a multi-million dollar astro-turf field. Without it, how could the students be productive members of society?
Woody May 22, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Woody John Q tax payer is a 100% correct. I had a business which i employed young people from SV. What a shame, they could not communate, read, write,spell,could not write a simple letter. To give teachers a a wage increase and raise taxes is a sin. Our schools are teaching one thing, how to become welfare bum. It is time to put self serving teacher unions to rest We should be paying teachers on performance as many progressive states are doing and firing bad ones,. Maybe then we will get a employee that can write a simple letter or email.

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