North Hills school board rejects Beattie budget

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In voting to reject the 2014-15 budget of the A.W. Beattie Career Center, North Hills school board members said they want more information about why projected expenses will increase 11 percent.

“The way Beattie budgets and the way we budget don't seem to be in sync,” board President Ed Wielgus said last Thursday. “I’m having difficult time getting my arms around what happened here.”

The Beattie budget failed on a vote of 3-4, with 2 abstentions.

North Hills’ contribution to Beattie increased by 23 percent, also due in part to an increased number of district students attending the vocational school. The new contribution was included in North Hills’ 2014-15 budget, said superintendent Patrick Mannarino.

Beattie’s $8.8 million budget increased by $743,000 in part because of increases in retirement funding and uncertain health care costs, Beattie board members said when they approved the budget April 30.

Kathy Reid, one of two North Hills representatives on the Beattie board, said that the vocational school balanced its budget last year by taking $550,000 out of its reserves. “They could not do that this year,” she said.

Her North Hills colleagues complained that questions about the reasons for the increase went unanswered by Beattie officials.

“I could not get info from Beattie on this year's budget and last year's budget,” said Jeffrey Meyer. “I don’t want to vote for a budget that I can't see the details.”

Beattie’s new director of finance, Cathy Hill, plans to meet quarterly with the business managers of the member districts to keep them in the loop, said David Hall, North Hills business manager.

Members who voted against the budget also cited increased salary costs, including a large raise for the executive director.

“I just look at the big picture all the time and they are asking us to swallow a 23 percent increase in the overall budget and there are some salaries here that are a little more than I can accept at this time,” Mr. Wielgus said.

But Arlene Bender, the second Beattie representative, said teacher salaries are determined by the salaries of the nine districts. The highest and lowest salaries are thrown out, and the other seven are averaged.

Also, she said, Eric Heasley was the lowest paid vo-tech director in Allegheny County, despite more years of service than others, and the Beattie board has been trying to build up his salary.

“I am begging you to please vote for this budget,” Mrs. Bender said. “I have watched a school go from districts throwing away their kids to be taken care of outside their buildings to a reputable, wonderful opportunity for students.”

Mrs. Bender and Mrs. Reid were joined by Joe Muha in approving the budget. Mr. Wielgus and Mr. Meyer were joined by Lou Nudi and Mike Yeomans in opposing it. Tom Kelly and Annette Giovengo Nolish abstained.

“I am truly devastated by this board, and I am also embarrassed,” said Mrs. Bender.

The Beattie budget has to be approved by six of the nine member districts, and over half of the 81 board members from those districts.

In other action, the school board approved a contract with eSchoolView to design, maintain, host and support a new district website through June 30, 2019.

North Hills will pay eSchoolView of Columbus, Ohio, $8,865 for design, moving the data, training and a server setup fee, and will also pay $646 per month for maintenance and hosting.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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