Four furloughed, tax rate unchanged in Mars Area
Share with others:
The Mars Area school board Tuesday night approved a $39,819,651 budget that holds the line on taxes at 99 mills for property owners in Adams, Mars, Middlesex and Valencia, but cuts personnel. Each mill will generate approximately $215,000.
Retiring teachers won't be replaced and two guidance counselors and two technology teachers will be furloughed.
The remaining five guidance counselors will serve all the schools. Two of those retiring are art teachers, so those classes will be taught by the classroom teacher in kindergarten and first grade while high school art classes will be reduced to four days.
Mark Lewandowski, a 31-year teacher representing the Mars Area Education Association, said the teachers' union will lose 15 members because of the cuts. He said the district is still growing with 2,400 new homes built since the 2010 census.
Board President J. Dayle Ferguson said the budget balances "educational responsibility" with realities of state budget cuts and rising costs that are out of the district's control, such as contributions to the state pension system.
"We approached this budget with our eyes wide open. These challenging times, by all accounts, will continue into the future," she said. "Flexibility and cooperation will certainly take on new meaning this school year, but we will always do what has to be done to serve the students in our community. That's how we do it in Mars."
Mrs. Ferguson said there are still many unknowns in the budget, including state subsidies, summer enrollment figures and wages and benefits for two unions.
The district is negotiating with the teachers' and the support professionals unions. Both unions have rejected recommendations in a fact-finder's report. The board has approved the report.
"We hope, as an association, to continue to negotiate this summer. We want to resolve this," Mr. Lewandowski said.
The board Tuesday approved seeking bids from contractors for support services that are provided by custodians, paraprofessionals and secretaries.
Solicitor Thomas Breth said the bids are "a piece of information that the school board needs in trying to determine an appropriate compensation package" and is not a decision to outsource the services. However, he said, "the school district could move to contract them out in the future."
The Mars Area board meets only once next month -- 7 p.m. July 17.
First Published June 14, 2012 5:57 am