Tube City Almanac

June 16, 2011

MASD Expects Some Budget Relief

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

By Jennifer Sopko
Special to Tube City Almanac

Changes in the proposed state budget and early retirements could help ease the pain to students, faculty and taxpayers in the McKeesport Area School District.

At the board's agenda meeting Wednesday night, Business Manager David Seropian updated school directors on the district's revised preliminary budget, which now stands at $57.1 million.

Expenditure reductions coupled with additional revenues from anticipated state education funding means that the school district would only need to use a little over $2 million of its general reserve fund to make up the budget deficit, Seropian said. Originally, the board expected to use almost $4.2 million of the $6.5 million reserve.

Seropian said that personnel changes --- early retirement incentives accepted by 35 professional employees as well as some voluntary transfers throughout the district --- have saved approximately $781,000 in next year's budget.

Given these budget changes, it remains unclear whether the school district will raise taxes. In May, the board approved a preliminary budget including an increased tax rate of 17.05 mills --- a one-third mill increase, the maximum allowed without putting the question to referendum.

Seropian said that the final millage would be determined at the voting meeting next week.

The budget changes are contingent upon the restoration of education funding in the proposed state budget, which is currently under consideration by the state Senate. A budget resolution recently approved by the state House of Representatives would restore basic education funding to 2008-09 levels. If that plan passes the Senate, the district would get almost $1.1 million back in basic education funding that was cut by Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed spending plan.

"We've anticipated that we're going to get this money back from the state," Seropian said.

The state House also approved a 40 percent restoration of Accountability Block Grants throughout the state. Accountability Block Grants fund the all-day kindergarten program in McKeesport Area School District. Under the proposal, the district would receive almost $345,000.

"As long as nothing changes with the [state] budget, this is where we stand," said board vice president Steven Kondrosky.

In addition, Seropian explained that after tweaking some Title I federal program expenditures, which provide financial assistance for educating children of low-income families, it appears that the district would be able to maintain a daytime tutoring staff.

"That's very good news," said board member Patricia Maksin.

The district also qualifies for another year of Title II federal funding for class size reduction, which would generate over $408,000 in revenue. A final budget vote is expected at the board's regular meeting on June 22.

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