Bethel Park school board Tuesday approved a $77 million preliminary budget while acknowledging that plenty of work lies ahead to formulate the final version of the district's 2013-14 spending plan.
"It's just a rough first draft that will have to be pared down over the next four or five months," said Donna Cook, board president.
The budget must be adopted by June 30. A preliminary version is due before Feb. 20 if the district plans to apply to the state Department of Education for an exception to the index that caps tax increases under the Taxpayer Relief Act.
Mrs. Cook said the district looks to trim $1.8 million from the budget to comply with the index. She put much of the blame for financial shortfalls on state cuts in school subsidies.
"As we proceed ... we will focus on what's best for our students," she told the standing-room-only audience.
Many of those in attendance wore shirts signifying their membership in the American Federation of Teachers, the parent organization of the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers.
The union and school district continue to negotiate a new contract to replace the one that expired in June 2010. Bethel Park teachers are working under the terms of the previous contract.
One potential cost-savings measure being discussed by administrators is a reduction in credits needed for graduation. Several audience members Tuesday questioned the rationale for pursuing such a move.
Board members reiterated a contention that the resulting scheduling flexibility might benefit students, and that no timetable exists for action on changing graduation requirements.
Talks will continue at the board's curriculum committee meeting Feb. 6.
The district's 2012-13 budget is $73.3 million. For next year's spending plan, more specific information is needed in several key areas, including the amount of state subsidy and adjusted property valuation in Bethel Park following Allegheny County's reassessment.
The board awarded a $395,000 contract to Hayes Design Group of Bridgeville for architectural services related to a renovation project at Neil Armstrong Middle School. The overall project, which has an estimated cost of $5.7 million, will replace climate-control mechanical systems at the school. The original heating and cooling units installed in 1969 are still in operation and require considerable maintenance.
The project will be financed with savings from the recent high school renovation project.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org