Mars Area budget keeps taxes at 99 mills

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The Mars Area school board Tuesday approved a budget and a contract with its support personnel.

And, during a special meeting Wednesday morning, board members appointed Steve Boggs to replace board member Ross McConnell, who died May 27. Mr. Boggs, a contractor and husband of a district secretary, won nomination on both tickets for a two-year term in May, beating incumbent Rebecca Brown.

The $41.5 million budget holds the line on taxes -- 99 mills, or $99 for each $1,000 of assessed value.

The budget also maintains all existing program and adds 12 staff, including six teachers and two nurses. This will give every school a full-time nurse, the first time for the district, said Jill Swaney, business manager.

Also, a laptop computer will be provided to every high school student, and the social studies textbooks will be replaced, Ms. Swaney said.

The board approved a three-year contract with the Mars Area Support Professionals Association, which is composed of secretaries, paraprofessionals and custodians.

The contract, which runs until June 30, 2015, includes 35-cent-an-hour raises in the second and third years. Wages are frozen in the first year, which ends Sunday.

"The board is very pleased that we reached an agreement and we are looking forward to a productive school year," said board President J. Dayle Ferguson.

Laurie Dufford, union president, said they are "very pleased to have a contract." The board had threatened to outsource the positions if a contract could not be reached.

"I'm very pleased that the contract negotiations are over," said superintendent William Pettigrew. This was his last negotiations before his Dec. 1 retirement.

In other action, the board moved next month's meeting to July 23.

Members also agreed with Mr. Pettigrew and solicitor Tom King to deny a request from Parents for PRIDE, which wanted to place an anti-bullying sign at the entrance to the high school stadium.

Mr. King said that if they allow one group to erect a sign, they have to allow all others that request one.

"Looking at that sign, you would say that is pretty innocuous," he said. "But once you put that up, then you're open to put up signs that you don't like, or you don't want to put up."

The board also approved Syed Hyder as the district's physician. He replaces Ira Baumgartel, who is retiring after serving the district for more than 30 years.

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:


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