New school budget holds line on taxes but is $1.4 million in the hole

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

Money was the main topic of conversation at the June 18 meeting of the Greencastle-Antrim Board of School Directors. The 2015-2016 final budget was passed, and raises were approved for one group of employees.

Next year’s budget of $37,649,266  will operate at a $1.44 million deficit. Revenues were pegged at $36,202,274. The board approved the figures 7-1.

Eric Holtzman, Lura Hanks, Ken Haines, Melinda Cordell, Mike Still and Jim Winslow were present. Tracy Baer and Brian Hissong attended via phone. Linda Farley was absent. Winslow voted no.

Business manager Jolinda Wilson said the shortage would be covered by the $4.9 million fund balance. The board was content to pull the money, irritated by the state funding formula.

Superintendent Greg Hoover commented on recommendations issued that day by the legislature’s Basic Education Funding Commission. It supported allocations based on student enrollment, but Hold Harmless was still a part of it.

Winslow said, “It’s not right we’re in this predicament because the state has shorted us funds for so long.”

Hoover understood the protests, but said the district needed a budget passed that evening.

The tax levies remained the same as last year: real estate tax mills, 103.15; real estate transfer tax, 1/2 of 1 percent; earned income tax, 1/2 of 1 percent; local services tax, $10.

The board approved a two percent salary increase for all staff except teachers, administrators or separate board contracts. The raises applied to aides, secretaries, security, and a few department heads. Wilson said the impact would be $36,000, including benefits. The employees’ last raise was two years ago.

The board also accepted PA gaming money in the amount of $630,816 for property tax reduction, and approved the Homestead and Farmstead Exclusion resolution for next year.

In other business, the board changed the cafeteria charging policies so that primary and elementary students could charge up to five meals, and middle and high school students up to three meals. After that they would be offered a cheese sandwich, fruit and skim milk at no cost until the charges were paid. In the past the younger students could charge up to $15, but the high school students could not charge at all and received no meal.

“We’re trying to find ways to keep balances low so parents can afford to pay, and it doesn’t get out of control,” Wilson said. “Also, every child can eat a meal every day.”

Parents are notified when the charge reaches $10, and can also check through the student’s account online.

Personnel

The board hired a new company to provide athletic training services for 2015-2016. Shippensburg Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine LLC submitted a proposal for $31,000, and the contract would include more hours of service.

G-ASD had used Peak Performance last year at $27,000, but it had exercised a clause in the contract in which either party could withdraw for any reason. They asked for $51,000 next year, or that the district hire one person directly.

"We’re better suited to have an entire company than one person,” said Hoover.

He added Shippensburg PT was thinking about opening an office in Greencastle.

The retirement of Teresa Young, middle school social studies teacher, was accepted for the end of December. Resignations were also approved for Timothy Hill, high school tech ed teacher; and Amber Miller, district learning support. New hires included Matthew Beckering, middle school social studies; Sallianne Crawford, kindergarten; and Joshua Fretz, middle school math.

Fretz replaced Joyce Gerstenlauer, the music teacher. Director of education Bob Crider said the middle school music program was being restructured.

The elementary and high school instructors would take some of the classes, and students would choose to participate in band or choir, or focus on one of those disciplines academically. The additional math teacher was to keep class sizes down.