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Seneca Valley Slashes Deficit in Half, Mulls Budget Options

The school board is expected to vote on final proposed budget next week.

Seneca Valley officials are looking to vote on a proposed final budget with a deficit that has been slashed in half.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Lynn Burtner, the district’s business manager, said the $2.8 million funding gap predicted for 2013-14 school budget has been reduced to $1.44 million, mainly through personnel attrition and benefits savings. 

“There were changes in both revenues and expenses, a lot of them working in our favor,” she said.

Some of those factors include new developments in the communities that make up the district, which has bumped up the value of a property tax mill.

Burtner said one mill of property tax is now valued at $525,000, up from $515,000 last school year. The increase will bring the district an extra $265,375 at the current tax rate, she said. 

Switching to a countywide collection of earned income taxes also brought in $500,000 for the district, while Cyber OPT contracts with other school earned Seneca Valley an additional $100,000.

Salary reductions, mostly due to retirement attritional savings, also will save the district about $505,000.

Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale said 17 teachers are retiring this year. Three of those positions won’t be replaced. Newer teachers at lower salaries will replace the 14 other educators who are retiring.

“It is there where you will see savings,” Vitale said.

The district also is getting rid of the $25 annual activity bus put in place for students last year after learning the state will reimburse districts for bus runs—but only if they don’t charge students.

The reimbursement will bring in somewhere between $125,000 to $150,000, Burtner estimated.

The budget also calls for 1.5 furloughs at the secondary level. A cut in secondary English and Science programs also will cause two veteran teachers to move into other positions, Vitale said.

Under the 2 percent inflationary index set by the state, Seneca Valley is allowed to raise property taxes by 2.2 mills. The state also approved the district to raise taxes by an additional 3.3 mills under Act 1, bringing the total amount Seneca Valley is allowed to raise taxes to 5.5 mills.

Also known at the Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 permits district to increase property taxes above the inflationary index.

Burtner said raising taxes by the 2.2 mill inflationary index leaves the deficit between revenues and expenses at $286,568. Proposed expenditures total about $101 million. Revenues are estimated at about $99.5 million.    

Burtner said raising taxes by 2.75 mills would balance the budget.

What happens next is up to officials.

School board members are expected to vote at next week’s meeting at 8 p.m. May 13 on whether to adopt a proposed final budget. If it is approved, the budget will be on display to the public through mid-June.

Officials are expected to vote at the June 17 school board meeting on whether to adopt a final budget.

Thoughts on the budget? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Boyerwedum May 08, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Bottom line is taxes are going up again! From the Butler Eagle: "Board member Jim Nickel said Monday night that the district could further reduce the burden on taxpayers if the board chooses to reduce its contingency fund. That fund is used in emergency situations to help pay for various expenditures not budgeted throughout a given school year. Seneca Valley currently has $750,000 budgeted for the contingency fund. Nickel analyzed the contingency fund and how much of it the district has used in the past several years, and said the district could get by without budgeting so much. He suggested cutting $250,000 from the contingency fund, adding that the savings realized from that move could help defray potential tax increases. “That’s about half a mill saved right there,” he said. Vitale noted that Nickel brought up the same issue last year, and that she still has some of the same concerns that prevent her from endorsing the idea. “I get very nervous when we start cutting the contingency fund. You know how I feel about that,” Vitale said. “That’s a short-term fix. What about the long term?” Board member Eric Gordon agreed with Vitale and argued that the contingency fund should actually be increased to $1 million, which is where the fund had previously been set before being decreased several years ago." So at least there's one board member trying to hold back these increases.
spendurown$ May 08, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Why are the statutes passed to increase taxes always named something like "Tax payer's Relief Act"? Are we supposed to be relieved? Yes, taxes are going up again, and they just went up!!!! This will take away the incentive to live here over living in Allegheny County. Heaven forbid we should try to compete with them for taxpayers. Remember the name of Obamacare, our kids will read and laugh at their history books when they see "Affordablity" listed in the name. What a RELIEF to have such people running our local government. I'll use the word the same way it applies to the tax act and it's relationship to my relief.
Jackie May 08, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Tom Corbett will not tax the oil & gas companies since they donated $530 million to his election fund! Can we pass a privilege fee for all of the commuters that work in the school district but do not live here?
Colleen Peirce May 08, 2013 at 08:48 PM
They have raised our taxes EVERY YEAR for at least 3-4 years, overriding the Tax Payers relief act!!!! This should be a one time exemption not every year !! Why have the law??
Boyerwedum May 09, 2013 at 03:14 AM
$530 million? Really Jackie? Why don't you write some facts? From January 2011 through October 2012, the Obama campaign burned through over $553.2 million. I don't recall Corbett's campaign even coming close!
spendurown$ May 09, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Exactly Colleen!! They make no efforts to cut costs, and try to make it so we have no say so in future tax raises either. They think they can get us to go along with a new act that will sound really taxpayer friendly. I'm waiting fo them to pass a Taxpayer's SUPER, SUPER relief ACT, Part deux, 2013. This is when they tell people they should be really relieved because it WAS going to be 10 billion increase, but now it is only a 19 billion increase.. At some point they want us to kiss their feet for being so kind as to not make it as horrible as they could have. The the very least, Cranberry Patch you need to change the headlines. Let's quit having the headlines that say they are slashing budgets, while the article is all about increasing our taxes, while teachers are being laid off. This cannot all be happening at the same time. And no one should feel relieved until we relieve a few politicians of access to our bank accounts. Most theives say "stick 'em up". Our's say "hey, we are hear to 'relieve' you of your money".
spendurown$ May 09, 2013 at 03:53 AM
And I'd like to apologize for not proofreading before I hit the send button. I really do know how to spell most of those words.....just so upset I am losing my mind.
spendurown$ May 09, 2013 at 03:58 AM
So Jackie, we could solve our problems by taxing the oil companies that by NO taxes? As the wife of an oil company executive I hate to tell you this. They are already paying huge taxes, paving roads, and giving America the hope to be energy indepedent.... I'm not sure what more they could do. Liberals advocate for someone else to pay the bill, and when they do, they ignore it and ask for more. How much did you pay last year vs., say Shell Oil Co.? Hmmm? Don't know do you, because someone told you they paid $0. And you believe that?
Lynne Rodrigues May 09, 2013 at 02:31 PM
I do see our district working to cut costs while striving to maintain high quality education for our students. I have four children in four different schools in our district. Across the board I see school staff members working to save money. Some cost containment measures are simple. Staff and students turn the lights of in all rooms when not in use. This is an excellent example set for our children as well as small energy savings. Maintenance staff constantly monitors the facility to make necessary repairs. I chatted with a maintenance person the other day as he worked to repair a leaky toilet to conserve water. More and more communication between school and home is done electronically to save paper. Many necessary forms are on the website as well to eliminate mass distribution of forms that are not needed to certain percentage of the recipients. I see a staff concerned with cost containment. I see a staff of educators, administrators, and school board committed to delivering a high quality education cost effectively. Our district's test scores have risen steadily through the years. Our ranking among area districts has risen as well. I am proud to say my children attend our schools. Having a top-notch school district is crucial to maintaining our property values and attracting new families and businesses to our area. Thank you
spendurown$ May 09, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Lynne, I agree the local students and teachers are making efforts. I will not minimize their efforts. Taxpayers expect schools to not waste. The money we object to spending has nothing to do with educating children. We read about a retired principal who managed to work the union system so that he also worked one day as a janitor and now has a double pension of $500K per year. This is money NOT going to educate your children. The poor teachers now work under new rules, getting less promises, but we are paying for past bad practices. Let's not make the past practices come back into vogue. This is why they are asking for more money, not that the student performance is suffering, but they see the union power waning. No union is teaching your children. I'm glad you are happy with your children's education. But, if the schools here are so good, why do they always ask for more and more money? Inflation is near zero. Every penny they ask for should be made with justification for how it will improve the education of children. Did they promise if we raise taxes each and every year that the scores will rise? NO, they promised nothing new in educational outcomes. Interesting, isn't it? I attended a one room school. I was better educated than most people I see. I base this on some recent famous jury verdicts. We are graduating illogical fools, and kids who think the world owes them. (Your kids excepted). If a=b and b=c, these people figure a=UFOs, not a=c.
Lynne Rodrigues May 10, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Dear Sir, I have done some research over the course of the last day (it took me a fair bit of time) and I can assure you the principal you refer to is not from the Seneca Valley District. $500K is a salary seen by a very small percentage of the general population. In fact, I could find only one educator salary/pension approaching your stated figure and that individual was the CEO of a private cyber institution who authorized his own salary. Educators do not enter the profession expecting significant financial compensation. Individuals hoping for the high salaries steer clear from education. That sort of money just isn't there! Please do not excuse my children from your generalizations. I work hard to raise them properly but they are a product of their generation. I hope if you would come across them you would be pleased to see a young person look you in the eye and greet you properly. They should remember to look back and hold the door for those behind them or those in need of a little extra assistance. I believe each generation looks at the next and laments values changed and lost. We have indeed lost things in today's society that are sorely missed. Yet, the world today is different than it was even just 10 years ago. I recently threw out my college typewriter and my children were amazed to see how you actually put paper in it and put letters directly on the paper! Education has changed because the world has changed. Indeed some of the change is undesirable
Lynne Rodrigues May 10, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Never the less, change is part of life. Generally, I see my fellow parents today working hard to encourage their children to understand, appreciate, and care for their community. There will always be exceptions. Last night, I attended my older children's symphonic band concert. The music was wonderful! The marching band just won first place in the Pegasus Parade. That is the celebratory parade in Louisville to kick of the festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The band directors and our music program have an outstanding reputation. There is another concert next Wednesday evening 5/15 at 7:30 PM if you are a jazz fan. The choral program and theatre program are outstanding as well. Many people in the community anticipate the annual musical and shows. If you attend the programming you wouldn't guess you were listening to high school performers. Academically Seneca Valley students do well also. A group of students from the IHS won engineering contests earlier this year. Our students place well and qualify for national academic games events. Our teachers and school have won awards for the work they do. Seneca Valley is committed to preparing students for life beyond the classroom. Come and see for yourself. Thank you.
spendurown$ May 10, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Lynne, I'm afraid we are talking past each other. I want your lovely children well-educated as much as you do. I just want someone to prove that they need more money to accomplish that. I have a family of school teachers. They have dropped out of their unions at the cost of being snubbed by fellow teachers. And it is a hard process. They are incensed that people would think if they just got "a raise", THEN they'd start doing their job. Schools should increase the quality of teachers and learning techniques, not my taxes. The taxes we pay are not going solely to improving the lives of students, or even teachers and school buildings. It is going to a bloated administration and retirement system. You, yourself, seem to think they are doing a great job of teaching your children. Again I ask, if they are so great, why more money in a zero inflation environment, when the rest of are struggling? A 2% increase in my taxes will more than wipe out my raise this year. I get more behind each year. My 2% raise in salary, as I earn far less per year than my house's value, is gone. Do the math. I, too, have done a lot of research on the school system here. Did you know that PA teachers are some of the top paid teachers in America? Did you know they are on record as having had the most strikes of any state? Did you know that they spend nearly twice a much per student as other states? Teachers get in line to teach here instead of some inner city. Give it a rest.
spendurown$ May 10, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Again, Lynne, the schools are doing great. Your kids are great, so are their teachers. So stay out of my pocket book. I have also bought every cookie dough, ready to bake pizza the kids bring around. I want the money to go to kids, not bloated administrations. Especially in hard times, I am hardly able to pay my bills, and it really is so thrilling to hear about the trumpet lessons given free to "Johnny". My parents paid for my lessons, not the public. Pay for these things yourself, if you think they are so important. Have a fundraiser for poor kids, but don't demand I pay for all the trumpet lessons. Here's a quote you might be interested in: In the past 15 years, statewide spending in public schools has more than doubled while the number of students has declined. The only new ideas to emerge are ways of claiming that this explosion in revenues is somehow a shortage. It is politically convenient to blame the current governor for the failings of Washington and the previous administration, but it is hardly fair and never honest. The writer is press secretary for the state Department of Education.
Lynne Rodrigues May 13, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Maybe we are talking past one another. What I do know is providing a high quality education requires money. Resources and monies for education have been cut significantly in the last several years. Our district has worked to contain finances and maintain a strong financial base. We have sustained the loss of excellent teachers and administrators. We have lost instruction time in art, music, and physical education at the elementary level. These are hard losses as instruction in these areas directly contribute to the prevention of "illogical fools" you refer to above. The district has looked for non-traditional ways to increase revenue including selling advertising spots on the district web site and holding a lovely gala this winter. I am trying to tell you our district is doing it right. Please consider visiting the website or attending one of Dr. Vitale's meetings for community members to have your concerns personally addressed. I believe our district is worth the additional funds. Education is worth the additional funds. Thank you for supporting the fundraisers when the kids come. That is very kind. Much of those are not for the school per se but for private organizations such as scouts, etc. Lastly, for the record, the majority of us do pursue private music lessons. Our commitment as parents to not raise illogical fools compels us to do so.

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