Mars Area spending plan allows for hiring, adds student laptops

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Mars Area school directors approved a preliminary budget Tuesday that holds the line on taxes, but adds teachers, nurses and laptop computers.

The $41,477,350 budget would maintain all programs and adds 12 staff, including six teachers and two nurses, said Jill Swaney, business manager.

In addition, the five retiring teachers also would be replaced, she said.

The budget includes providing laptops for all high school students.

Although state revenue increased for the first time in three years, retirement costs were higher, she said.

Taxes would remain at 99 mills for property owners in Adams, Mars, Middlesex and Valencia. One mill brings in $215,000. The 2013-14 budget calls for spending $1,657,600 more than last year and will be balanced with $1.6 million from the fund balance.

Ms. Swaney said "choices made in past budget years," including cuts in personnel and programs, allowed the district to add the staff and laptops this year without raising taxes.

In 2012-13, the budget adopted in June did not replace retiring teachers and furloughed two guidance counselors and two technology teachers. One of the counselors was recalled in February.

In other action, the board awarded a contract to install bleachers to Sports and Recreation Associates for $159,900. The handicapped-accessible bleachers will contain 300 seats each on the home and on the visitors' sides of the stadium.

The board also voted to use its architectural firm, Roth Marz, to provide supervision of the project at $75 an hour, not to exceed 10 hours per week.

Members also voted to reject two proposals for food service management, and approved a one-year extension of the contract with Nutrition Inc. A one-year extension is allowed by law, but the district will have to seek bids next year, said Superintendent William Pettigrew.

Extending the current contract will result in a "slight profit to the district," Mr. Pettigrew said. "If we accepted the other two bids, the district would have suffered a loss."

Lunch prices were set for next year at $2.50 for primary grades and $2.75 for secondary grades.

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:


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