EDUCATION

School district employees, programs would be affected by $1.5 million in cuts

PAT FRIDGEN

The public learned what $1.5 million in cuts could look like if the Greencastle-Antrim School District school board didn't raise taxes for the next two years. At the April 19 board meeting Supt. Dr. C. Gregory Hoover spelled out how education could continue in light of the pending deficit budgets. He blamed the shortfall on a decrease in federal, state and local funding; increases in costs in which the school district had no control; and a growth in student population.

Past cuts

Hoover stated that administration and the board had been fully aware of the looming deficits, due in great part to the mandated rising district contributions to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System. In the past couple years the school had already eliminated several jobs - one elementary teacher, two librarians, two library aides, the truancy officer, several aides, a Family and Consumer Science teacher, one maintenance person, two custodians, two bus drivers, three food service employees, a grant writer, and two administrators.

Hours and benefits were reduced for new support staff hires. Programs were scaled back, including summer camps and third semester classes, drivers education, summer reading, after school study programs, lower pay for teachers in Franklin Virtual Academy and limited use of clerical substitutes. Technology was cut in 2011-12, as well as spending for supplies, library books, professional development, travel costs for staff and students, energy, text books and new equipment.

Revenue has been increased through student participation fees, admission prices, facility rental, FVA joining a consortium, and because health care costs did not go up.

Hoover reminded the board and visitors that for 2012-13, the school cut two additional elementary teachers, a gifted teacher/technology coach, and the special education director. The latter "scares me because special ed is such a tricky area."

2012-13 cuts

The district still needs to trim $450,000 to avoid a tax increase. According to business manager Richard Lipella, the maximum increase allowed was 2 mills, which would bring in about $365,000.

Hoover said a recent grant allowed spending $150,000 on items badly needed, and his other suggestions were to eliminate the director of environmental education for an $85,000 savings in salary and benefits, and to let go of support staff not covered by a memorandum of understanding, to save another $215,000.

2013-14 cuts

With no tax increase the following year, and PSERS spiking, Hoover proposed dramatic changes to cover the $1 million deficit. They included cutting three teaching positions for $300,000; eliminating interscholastic athletics for $400,000; dropping all extracurricular activities for $75,000; cutting MAP testing for $25,000; outsourcing where feasible, and sharing services with other districts, though it was difficult to get them to cooperate with such.

He concluded that the school board had three choices and a hope.   

"You can make more cuts, use the fund balance, increase taxes or hope the state gives additional funds."

He stressed that administration had looked at the numbers, always with the district's mission in mind, "To create and provide opportunities for all students to become lifelong learners and productive citizens."