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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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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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