EDUCATION

School budget means 3 mill tax increase, cuts still coming

PAT FRIDGEN
The Greencastle-Antrim School Board has proposed raising real estate taxes by 3 mills.

Though the Greencastle-Antrim School Board expected the numbers to change by the time it passes the final 2011-2012 budget, it approved the proposed general fund budget on April 21. Revenue was set at $32,114,549 and expenditures at $33,368,714.

The budget would raise taxes by 3 mills plus carry a $1.25 million deficit. Members Joel Fridgen, William Thorne, Paul Politis, Melinda Cordell and Howard Ritchey voted in favor, and Brian Hissong and Eric Holtzman were opposed. Kristy Faulkner and Mike Shindle were absent.

The administration and board had whittled the January deficit of $2.2 million, and also learned in March it would receive $800,000 less than last year in state aid.  Cuts made so far did not affect personnel or programs, but business manager Richard Lipella said several staff positions would not be replaced through attrition.

“This is only preliminary,” said Fridgen. “We will have a list of cuts in May. Part of the frustration is this thing is a moving target.”

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover said the numbers of both revenue and expenses would be changing right up until the June 30 deadline. The possible reduction of staff would not be announced until the affected people had been notified. He added that the board planned to officially halt the building renovation project, but had to wait to hear from the Pennsylvania Department of Education on the procedure since PlanCon documents had already been submitted to the state.

“We are far away from where we need to be at this point,” commented Holtzman.

The board met in executive session after the meeting to discuss personnel.

G-ASD received approval from PDE to exceed the Act 1 index of 1.6 mills, with another 1.4 mills allowed for exceptions. The current mill rate is 94.9.

Eyes on Greencastle

Guest speakers reported on G-ASD’s reputation in the community at large. Dr. Thomas Speakman, Dean of Enrollment at Shippensburg University, explained what colleges looked for in the admission process. Presently, 79 G-ASD graduates attended Ship, and their mean collegiate GPA was higher than that of the entire university.

In reviewing applications and seeking successful students, Speakman said all colleges looked at the same thing, mostly strong core classes, including AP and honors courses. The preference was classes that exceeded state recommendations, ideally 4 language arts classes, 4 math, 4 science, 3 social studies and 2 language. The classes carried up to 75 percent of the weight on whether someone was accepted into a college, and were more important than ACT/SAT scores. The trend would continue in evaluating academics over testing.

“Your students are fantastic,” he said, adding that Ship was always pleased with their caliber.

Fridgen responded, “This information is useful to us as a board as we make decisions in regard to curriculum in light of the budget.”

Mike Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, highlighted his organization’s successes in 2010.  Companies such as Volvo in Shippensburg, Summit Health and Keystone Health, Tyco in Waynesboro, Whitetail in Mercersburg and Advanced Drainage Systems in Greencastle were creating new jobs. The employees at any company could easily settle in Greencastle. In addition, there were 1,000 acres of industrial and commercial land available within two miles of Exit 3. He noted that Greencastle “was clearly the school district of choice in Franklin County.”

He referenced “the controversial water system sale” and hoped it could go through for Greencastle and Antrim Township, to solidify the infrastructure necessary for development.

“There’s way too much opportunity here and we’re going to get one chance to do this,” he said. “Everyone has a vested interest, expecially the school district. Reasonable people ultimately make reasonable decisions. I’m optimistic the sale will still occur.”

Other business

The board  accepted a donation of $132,500 from the Paul and Anna Shockey Family Foundation for replacing and upgrading the stage lighting system in the high school auditorium.

“I can’t say enough for the Shockey family,” said Hoover. He reminded people that the foundation had already paid for the refurishment of the school’s grand piano.

A 16-year-old sophomore boy was expelled for the balance of the school year and first semester of next year. On April 16 he brought marijuana to school. He will attend Manito and after meeting other requirements, the administration of both schools will determine if he may return to the high school.