Plum schools adopt preliminary budget that would lay off 23 teachers

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The Plum school board has approved a preliminary 2013-14 budget that would lay off 23 teachers and cut programs to fill a $1.48 million budget deficit.

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said a lack of state funding, the ongoing Allegheny County property reassessment process and a lower-than-normal collection of delinquent earned income taxes have all contributed to the budget shortfall.

In addition to the layoffs, some teachers will be lost to attrition, and the board also plans to add a "pay to play" fee for extracurricular activities, he said. Additionally, the proposed spending plan calls for the district to discontinue its participation in an alternative program at Boyce Campus Middle College.

Mr. Glasspool said the board, which approved the preliminary budget Wednesday, still is having conversations with the Plum Borough Education Association to try to come to "some kind of consensus or agreement."

Mr. Glasspool said the district has to contribute $1 million more in the 2013-14 budget than the current budget to the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System, but he said the board doesn't plan to raise taxes above the state Act 1 limit. The limits have exceptions for pension, special education or debt costs.

"The board had no intention of raising taxes above the index," Mr. Glasspool said.

Act 1, signed into law in 2006, establishes an annual index that determines the percentage each district in the state can raise taxes. Increases beyond the index require approval by the Education Department or by voter referendum.

The preliminary budget sets the millage at 18.444 mills, and increasing taxes to the Act 1 limit -- 18.758 mills -- would bring in $479,000, Mr. Glasspool said, but still would leave the district with a $1 million shortfall. Although that millage rate is lower than this year's rate of 22.2 mills, most residents would pay the same amount or more in taxes because of the recent changes in Allegheny County property reassessments.

Governments and school districts are required by state law to lower their millage rates to remain "revenue neutral" after property reassessments.

Mr. Glasspool said the board is trying to be sensitive to taxpayers while balancing the needs of the students.

"It's a difficult time," he said. "I know we're not the only ones in this situation."

The board voted 5-3 to approve the preliminary spending plan Wednesday night, Mr. Glasspool said. John St. Leger, Loretta White and Tom McGough dissented, and Joe Tommarello was absent.

Mr. Glasspool said the district has a reserve fund balance of $2.6 million and will discuss the possibility of tapping into that fund at a June 6 work session. The board plans to vote on the final budget at its June 25 meeting.

education - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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