Property taxes to rise a half mill in Mt. Lebanon schools
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School directors in Mt. Lebanon voted Monday night to increase the property tax rate by a half mill in the district's proposed $80.6 million final 2012-13 budget.
The increase would mean an extra $50 on tax bills for a home valued at $100,000. With this plan, the district's millage would total 27.13
The board also voted to use $145,775 in reserve funds, which left $811,491 in staff and program cuts. Those efforts and the millage increase were necessary to close a $1.9 million budget gap, members said.
They will have another month to discuss the final budget, to be approved May 21.
Cuts on the 44-item reduction concept list include some staff cuts by attrition or furlough, a reduction in classroom supply budgets and cuts to teacher, board and administrative travel.
To bring an extra $10,000 into the district, 200 students at Mt. Lebanon High School would be charged $50 a year for parking. In earlier discussions, some members questioned whether this was a good idea because those students are currently parking at the Mt. Lebanon United Lutheran Church during the high school renovation project.
Additionally, all sports events would charge attendees, and existing ticket prices would increase by $1. That would generate $18,400 for the district. And the district would increase building rental fees, bringing in $8,000.
Discussions about program and staff cuts aren't over, though.
Some board members were loath to reduce the number of elementary counselors, a savings of $60,000. Members Lawrence Lebowitz and Mary Birks made a case for them Monday night, with Ms. Birks pointing to the district's anti-bullying program and counselors' role in executing it.
To cut that figure in half, member Scott Goldman instead proposed not replacing a half-time counselor who resigned recently. Half-time counselors are paid $30,000. Superintendent Tim Steinhauer will return to the board later and explain how existing staff would be distributed among seven elementary schools.
Deborah Allen, assistant superintendent of elementary education, explained that a counselor at the high school retired and will be replaced by one from Mellon Middle School, and the district will fill that vacancy at Mellon Middle.
"Nobody is losing their job at all," she said Tuesday morning.
The board is also still debating whether to close all buildings one week in July or eliminate the district's contract with its facilities management company or cut one of the company's managers.
Board Vice President Elaine Cappucci said she would consider but could not support Mr. Goldman's proposal. If the board successfully closes the buildings or ends the contract with the facilities management company, they could leave the counselors as is. But those aren't done deals, she cautioned.
But shuttering buildings would require some work, as it would require a memorandum of understanding from all bargaining units.
"We can't count on either one of them," Ms. Cappucci said.
Member Daniel Remely, too, said he would consider Mr. Goldman's proposal, but he cautioned members: "We don't have anything else to give up."
Deciding which programs and staff to cut has been a challenge for members. In earlier discussions, members considered cutting the community service coordinator, Judith Kolko, a savings of $12,000. But an outcry from residents last month -- and an appeal from several students she's worked with -- made the board reconsider.
In other news, the board also heard a presentation from all seven elementary principals with some "anticipated" changes to the curriculum next year, including adding five minutes to both the beginning and end of the school day, eliminating 15-minute afternoon recess and adding a period for extra math and reading help.
A few parents spoke during citizen comment period, hoping to preserve the play period. Board President Josephine Posti reminded the audience that students in these schools also enjoy an hourlong lunch -- more than other local elementary schools -- during which they're permitted to walk home.
After resident Dave Huston asked for an update on the fundraising feasibility study, Ms. Posti said consultants Pursuant Ketchum were gathering a list of possible donors and should finish their analysis by the end of summer.
Ms. Birks, Ms. Cappucci and Bill Cooper will host the second of the board's coffee meet-and-greet sessions from 7 to 9 a.m. Wednesday at Orbis Caffe, 675 Washington Road.
First Published April 19, 2012 10:45 am