Tube City Almanac

July 27, 2012

Officials: MASD 'Has a Plan' to Cope With Challenges

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

Despite a challenging financial picture, McKeesport Area school officials are trying to reassure residents that the district's future is secure.

"We do have a plan in the district," said David Seropian, district business manager. "We always have a plan. The plan is always evolving based on different discussions."

Last month, McKeesport Area school directors by 6-3 vote approved a $59 million budget for 2012-13 including a 0.44 mill tax increase. Even with the increase, officials said, McKeesport Area taxpayers have the lowest school taxes in Allegheny County.

Seropian noted that the tax increase for the construction of a new Cornell Elementary School and the expansion of Francis McClure school in White Oak was a commitment that the board made early on in the process.

In addition, the school board has explored ways to cut expenses as well as generate additional revenue for the district over the last year, Solicitor Gary Matta said. "I think this administration ... justifiably believes that we're as to the bare bone as possible," he said.

Although the board may not necessarily agree all the time, School Director Mark Holtzman said "it does its homework" and devotes the time necessary to work on the budget and other projects, keeping in mind what is best for the taxpayers.

One idea that school directors are considering is creation of an tax-exempt educational foundation that could provide financial assistance to district programs. School officials said that details aren't yet finalized, but according to school Superintendent Timothy Gabauer, planning is underway and in the paperwork stages.

Even with cuts in state and federal funding, Matta said "the administration clearly has demonstrated that here's a budget we can believe we can educate children appropriately with."

Holtzman spoke about one opportunity from which the district will benefit. MASD will acquire a significant amount of weight lifting equipment through a partnership with a local gym.

Thanks to the efforts of basketball and track coach Ed Blacka, Holtzman said, the district will purchase excess gym equipment from Alexander's Athletic Club on Route 30 in Irwin, which is downsizing its facilities while in the process of consolidating with another local gym.

The equipment will be shared by the physical education department and all athletic teams in the district. The equipment will also be used for the My Action Plan for Success pilot program, which incorporates mandatory study sessions with weight lifting and exercise programs.

Although the exact value of the equipment hasn't yet been calculated, Holtzman said it was an "astronomical amount" and would have taken years for the district to purchase under normal circumstances.

"It's going to be beneficial to our students as well as our faculty," Holtzman said, calling it an area where the district both "saved some money and improved one of our departments."

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